Summer Herb Grain Salad

herb grain salad
Ananda Headshot Ananda Kaplan

For those hot summer days and nights, grain salads are a perfect choice. When outdoor temperatures rise, it can be enjoyable to discover dishes that are satisfying and refreshing, and that doesn’t require a hot oven. A dish that combines hearty tender grains, bright seasonal herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and a vibrant dressing to tie it all together really fits the bill. Grain salads can be served as sides or mains.

Our herb grain salad recipe brings a tasty balance of earthy farro with pickled summer vegetables, crunchy nuts and topped with a variety of flavor-enhancing herbs. This salad is tossed in a lemon vinaigrette to create an incredibly fresh, texture-filled and satisfying dish. We have also included an easy steps-by-step guide to making fun, creative combinations of grain-salad ingredients so you can enjoy them all year long.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup farro (or any grain you desire)
  • 2-3 fresh apricots (preferred), or 5 dried apricots, diced. Best to use unsweetened, unsulfured
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (hazelnuts work well)
  • ¼ cup basil, chiffonade (leaves rolled and cut into thin strips)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped

Pickled vegetables

  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 2 cup warm water
  • 2 beets, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • ~10 Green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • ½ cup cucumber, sliced

Dressing

  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ lemons, juiced
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Make the pickled vegetables: Combine first 4 ingredients in a large jar with tight-fitting lid, shake to dissolve honey and salt, add all the vegetables and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Will hold in the refrigerator for up to a month. Flavoring options to add: clove, garlic, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fresh herbs, chili.
  2. Make the farro: Bring a 4-quart saucepan of well-salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook until al dente, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool until barely warm.
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk or shake in a jar.
  4. Combine farro with pickled vegetables, apricots, nuts and dressing. Mix together, taste and adjust seasoning. Top with fresh herbs and mix together if serving right away.

Nutritional Highlights

Farro: A high-protein grain. Packed full of fiber to help promote healthy gut microbes to support a strong immune system and reduce inflammation. They promote satiety and have been linked to increased longevity. The polyphenols have high antioxidant activity.

Apricots: Very high in antioxidants, boosts skin integrity and health, supports gut health and is high in potassium to help maintain balanced blood pressure. They are also rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene and other carotenoids to support our vision.

Beets: One of the few vegetables with a deep red/purple pigment that provides our bodies with betalains, a class of powerful antioxidants that can detox the body, improve cognitive and physical functioning, and fight inflammation. With their blood red color it is fitting that they improve blood flow and blood pressure by widening our blood vessels to boost energy, and leave your skin looking great.

Hazelnuts: Great source of plant-based protein, fiber and healthy fats, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve overall health.

Radish: Cruciferous vegetable that has anticancer properties. Radishes are also great sources to fiber to help with balancing blood sugar and supporting gut health.

Onions: Considered a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the “good” bacteria in our gut and promotes a healthy digestive system. Research supports that the compounds such as allicin in onions has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cardioprotective properties

Citrus juice and zest: Packed full of a multitude of nutrients such as vitamin C, flavonoids, and fiber, which aid in vascular protection, reduced inflammation, improved gastrointestinal function and health, and can play an important role in preventing diabetes, cancer, and neurological disease.

Mint, basil and parsley: Contain a range of protective vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, and K, and packed full of antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Such antioxidants are lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin, which not only are known to reduce the risk of cancer, but also can prevent age-related macular degeneration and support liver health.

Building A Grain Salad

Step 1: Choose a Grain

Cooked it like pasta! Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, season with salt, and cook the grain until tender, drain excess water, and Enjoy!

List of grain options:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Black Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Red Rice
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Wild Rice
  • Farro
  • Sorghum

Step 2: Experiment With Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables

Once your grain is cooked, add your choice of seasonal vegetables or fruit (cooked or raw) to the mix! Be sure to chop the vegetables and fruit into bite-sized pieces or thin slices to be better incorporated.

Examples of vegetable options: spinach, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, asparagus, tomatoes, radishes, sugar snap peas, green beans, beets, mushrooms (always cooked), artichokes, watercress, arugula, avocado, bell peppers, herbs (basil, mint, parsley, dill, cilantro, thyme, oregano), olives, summer squash, cucumber, onion

Examples of fruit options: mango, apple, pear, apricots, figs, plums, peaches, nectarines, citrus, berries, cherries

Step 3: Add Some Protein

To make your whole grain salad more nutritious and filling, you can add protein!

Protein source examples: lean meats, beans, fish and even tofu. Try also adding different nuts or seeds and cheese, such as goat, feta or parmesan for a bit of protein plus healthy fats!

Step 4: Add Some Flavor!

Grain salads do great with a vinaigrette-based dressing: two parts oil mixed with one part vinegar (or other acid, like lemon juice) to make a simple yet flavorful dressing. Example ¼ cup vinegar would be mixed with ½ cup oil.

Oil Options: Olive oil is a great choice, and it gives a mild, nutty flavor along with a variety of health benefits. Also try sesame, avocado or walnut oil.

Acidity: add vinegars like white wine or apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed juice from citrus fruits like lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange.

Things to Add for a punch of flavor: dried herbs, Dijon mustard, ginger, honey, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Grain to Dressing Ratio: 1:4 For example: if you cooked 1 cup of grain, then you will need to make ¼ cup vinaigrette.

Step 5: Serve or Chill for Later

When serving right away: add additional fresh herbs, toppings or seasonings to maximize flavor and meet your tastes.

If storing it for later: Dress salad so it is able to develop more flavor, but wait until serving to add any fresh herbs, because the acidity in the vinaigrette can cause the fresh herbs to wilt and turn brown. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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