These salads start the school year off right

Dianne Rossen Worthington Tribune Media Services Published August 30, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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Farro with Nectarines, Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts, from Grain Mains by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Rodale, 2012), shows the authors know how to use whole grains in a way that will get people into the kitchen to cook with them.

When Grain Mains arrived on my desk, I couldn’t wait to open it. I have followed the authors’ blog Bruceandmark.com and know they have a passion for all things food. I was thrilled to see a fresh approach to cooking with whole grains.

There is often lack of clarity on how to use whole grains. In Grain Mains, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough make a giant effort not only to describe grains from amaranth to wheat berries, but also to provide detailed explanations on how to work with them. And the recipes make you want to get into the kitchen and cook.

There has clearly been a shift in consciousness about the nutritional value of different kinds of food. We know that we should be eating more whole grains. It occurred to me that with the start of the school year, why not make it a plan to regularly inject some healthy and tasty grain salads into your menus?

In the farro salad below, sweet nectarines are paired with salty ricotta salata and the assertive grain in a creative combination that works beautifully. Remember that pearled and semi-pearled farro are different and require different cooking instructions. The Gazpacho-Style Wheat Berry Salad is a reminder of the fading flavors of summer. To make it even easier, look for cooked wheat berries at prepared food counters or salad bars, which cuts out the cooking process and makes this salad a breeze to put together. Try one or both of these, and you’ll see that healthy eating was never so delicious.

Farro With Nectarines, Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts

Reprinted with permission from Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Rodale, 2012)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup whole-grain farro

6 tablespoons pine nuts

2 nectarines, chopped

4 ounces ricotta salata, finely crumbled

16 basil leaves, minced

2 tablespoons almond oil, (olive oil can be substituted)

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Soak the farro in a big bowl of cool water for at least 8 and up to 16 hours. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve or small-holed colander set in a sink. Pour the farro into a large saucepan, cover with water by several inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Drain again in that sieve or colander; then run under cool water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly.

Scatter the pine nuts in a dry skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 4 minutes.

Pour the pine nuts into a large serving bowl. Add the cooked farro. Stir in everything else: the nectarines, ricotta salata, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Make ahead: Store, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 days. For a fresher taste, omit the ricotta salata until ready to serve, and add small amounts of the grated cheese to individual servings.

Gazpacho-Style Wheat Berry Salad

Reprinted with permission from Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Rodale, 2012)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup wheat berries, preferably soft white wheat berries

1 pound tomatoes, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out, finely chopped

3 celery stalks, cut lengthwise into thirds and then finely chopped

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Several dashes hot red pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

Directions:

Soak the wheat berries in a big bowl of cool water for at least 8 and up to 16 hours. Drain them in a fine-mesh sieve or small-holed colander set in the sink. Pour the wheat berries into a large saucepan, fill it about two-thirds of the way with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the grains are tender with some chew still left, about 1 hour. Drain again in that sieve or colander; then run under cool water to bring the wheat berries to room temperature. Drain thoroughly.

Place the cooked wheat berries in a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients: the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, celery, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt (if using) and hot sauce. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Make ahead: Store, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 20 cookbooks, including her most recent, Seriously Simple Parties (Chronicle Books, 2012), and is also a James Beard award-winning radio-show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.

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