Grain-based salads are my favorite go-to solution for summer meals. Why?
- Take advantage of fresh vegetables (from your garden or not)
- Take advantage of fresh herbs (from your garden or not)
- Great leftovers
The first step is to choose a grain. Here are my favorites:
- short grain brown rice
- black rice
You might prefer other grains, like quinoa or barley. Whole grains are best of course, but orzo and pearl couscous are good choices too. They’re not actually grains. They’re pasta, so cook them like any other pasta in boiling water. The benefit is that, being pasta, they cook faster, so you can prepare your salad quickly.
Cook the grain according to package instructions. An instant pot cooker saves time. However you do it, do not overcook! The grains need to be a bit chewy and hold their shape.
Dump the grain in a large bowl, stir with a fork to break up lumps and help the cooling process. Stir in some oil. If your salad will have an herbed/cheesy flavor, use olive oil or some neutral oil like canola. If you’re going for an Asian flavor, use a neutral oil and perhaps a bit of sesame oil.
While the grains are cooling, wash and chop up vegetables and fresh herbs. Add protein with cheese, boiled egg, nuts, leftover cooked chicken or fish like salmon or shrimp. NOTE: You don’t need huge amounts of protein food.
Here’s how I made the bulgur salad pictured above. The whole grain flavor of the bulgur adds a rich taste, which I prefer.
Garden Bulgur Salad
An easy grain-based salad for summer dinner entrée.
- 1 cup dry bulgur wheat
- 3-4 TB olive oil
- 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
- 3/4 cup minced fresh herbs (choose from basil, thyme, oregano, mint, cilantro)
- juice of one lemon
- 4+ cups chopped vegetables: tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, red onion, broccoli, radish, kale leaves
- 3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
- Step 1 Cook bulgur in water according to package directions. NOTE if using an instant pot pressure cooker, use less water to avoid overcooking.
- Step 2 Scrape cooked bulgur into a large mixing bowl. Toss with a fork to break up lumps. Drizzle with olive oil and mix. Set aside to cool.
- Step 3 Chop vegetables into slices or chunks. Add to bowl.
- Step 4 Roughly chop fresh herbs and add to bowl.
- Step 5 Add lemon juice and walnuts.
- Step 6 Toss the salad and add salt to taste.
- Step 7 Add more cheese and olive oil if you like.
Recipes like this are easy to personalize. I think tomatoes are key for flavor, but if you don’t like them, leave them out. Use a different type of cheese. Fresh mozzarella will work nicely.