Big Flavor In Summery Entree Salads

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Boosting Greens & Veg With Nutritious Whole Grains

grainsSummer is a great time to serve big, sassy, vegetable-based entree salads that combine nutritional goodness with bright, vivid flavors. To add body and healthy oomph to garden produce, build satisfying dinner salads on a base of hearty whole grains. From black or red rice to quinoa and amaranth, whole grains are inexpensive, nutritious and easy to cook.

However, many of them don’t taste terrific on their own. To boost them from bland to bold, toast grains with seeds, spices, or garlic and cook them in broth, wine, or  juice. Millet, buckwheat, and barley all make a pleasant change from rice and can be served with the same sauces you’d use over pasta. Here’s what we’ve been eating at my house this week, but feel free to change these recipes up with your own favorite ingredients, and please do tell me if you find a fabulous combo!

Gorgeous Groats

Earthy and rich tasting, buckwheat groats cook as fast as white rice and offer the savory, satisfying flavor of French crepes. Buckwheat groats are especially tasty in this this hearty Tex-mex style salad, which is perfect for a hot night on the deck or a picnic at the beach. Serve it warm or chilled; the flavor only intensifies if made a few hours or a day ahead.

Southwest Corn Salad

1 cup buckwheat groats
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari
2 ears sweet corn, kernels trimmed
1-1/2 cups cooked cranberry or pinto beans
1 jalapeno or ancho chile, seeded and finely chopped (use gloves)
1 Walla-Walla Sweet onion, chopped
1 cup 2-inch fillet green beans, ends trimmed
2 cups ripe tomatoes, diced (with juice)
1/2 cup cilantro, stemmed

In a dry sauce pan, toast buckwheat groats and seeds over medium high heat until fragrant, then add the oil and sizzle for 2 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute, add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover pan, reduce heat to low and simmer until tender (12-15 minutes). Add Bragg’s or tamari and corn kernels, fluff groats with a fork, cover pan and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large serving bowl, combine buckwheat with cooked beans, chopped chile pepper, onion, baby green beans, and diced tomatoes and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve warm or at room temperature for best flavor. Serves 4-6.

Fresh Tomato Garden Salad

Chunky with vegetables, this hearty salad combines fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and summer squash with fast-cooking millet. Instead of broth, the tender grain is cooked with tomato juice and dry red wine to give this speedy dish extra depth of flavor. Seed the cukes if you want to; I rather like the crunch of the seeds myself.

Tomato Basil Salad

1 cup millet
1 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup small (4-6) inch zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 cups pattypan or crookneck squash, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup red or yellow sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cups ripe tomatoes, diced (with juice)
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 cup fresh basil, shredded
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

In a saucepan, combine millet with juice, wine, salt and 1 cup water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, cover pan, reduce heat to low and simmer until chewy yet tender (18-20 minutes).  remove from heat, stir in zucchini and summer squash, cover pan and let stand 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. In a large bowl, toss garlic, sweet pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil and let stand 10 minutes. Combine millet with tomato mixture and serve, garnished with cherry tomatoes. Serves 4-6.

A Spritely Thai Salad

Next time you serve rice, cook enough extra to make this lively, flavorful dish. Crunchy with crisp lettuce, carrots, and celery, bright with red onion, chives, and cilantro, this fast and refreshing salad tastes great warm or chilled. If you don’t like chopping peanuts, grind them briefly in a food processor or blender. If some of your radishes have gone to seed, add the plump little seed pods for extra crunch. For a refreshing chilled dish, make this a day ahead and refrigerate until serving time.

Summery Thai Salad

2 cups cooked rice (black, red, or any)
1 cup cilantro, stemmed
1 cup sweet carrot, shredded or coarsely grated
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped ancho or any hot pepper
1 cup celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup Rainbow or any radishes, quartered
4 cups Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup roasted peanuts, lightly chopped
1/3 cup Spunky Thai Dressing (see below)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, toss gently and serve. Serves 4-6.

To Top It All Off

Lively with chives and cilantro, mint and lemon, this sparkling Thai Dressing is equally delicious with buckwheat noodles (soba) or drizzled over grilled fish or chicken. It also makes a lovely lunch salad when tossed with roasted sweet potatoes, fresh corn, mini peppers and red onions.

Spunky Thai Dressing

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1-2 teaspoons Thai Sweet Chilli sauce
1/4 teaspoon tamari or liquid aminos
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chives, finely snipped
1/4 cup cilantro, stemmed

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well. Makes about 2/3 cup. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

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