Tonight when I opened the refrigerator, desperately seeking inspiration for a dinner salad to go with our leftover chowder, the grain-lover in me took over.
My wisdom for today: When nothing is going right in the kitchen, when you're blankly staring in the fridge for answers, or when your foodie brain is just fried from a day at work, grains are the answer to your prayers.
As most of you know, I'm quite obsessed with grain salads--quinoa and bulgur in particular. Grains are nutritional powerhouses, and I urge you to experiment with them in your cooking! Quinoa is high in protein, as well as manganese, magnesium, and iron. Bulgur also has a very high mineral content, and is high in fiber (regularity without prunes...hooray!).
Tonight, I had no recipe and no clear picture of what was happening on the cutting board, but I miraculously produced a smorgasboard salad using anything I could find. I call this masterpiece my "Every-Veggie-in-the-Fridge/Grains-Save-the-Day-Salad" (pitiful, I know). It was quick and easy, and delightfully tasty! (see recipe below).
Here are a few quick tips and creative ideas to get you started with grain salads:
- To enhance flavor, use liquids other than water to cook your grains in, such as chicken or veggie broth. I've also made recipes that called for part orange-juice-part-water combos, or even apple or pineapple juice.
- Add toasted nuts or seeds to your grains for more toasty-yum crunch. Toast walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or almonds.
- Mix and match fruit and veggies with your grains. Nectarines, apricots, apples, and pears make great grain salad add-ins. Just about any vegetable will work!
- Dried fruits are a great addition--raisins, dried apricots, and dried cranberries.
Now, let's get grain-happy!
(From my fridge to yours)
- 1 cup uncooked bulgur
- 1 can (2 cups) broth (veggie or chicken)
- 1 onion, diced
- a little olive oil
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1-2 cucumbers, chopped
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- handful of chopped, fresh cilantro
- 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
(courtesy of Cooking Light)
- 3 TBSP white wine vinegar
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or more if you love garlic!)
- salt and pepper to taste
1) In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Remove from heat, add bulgur, cover, and allow to sit until all liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
2) OPTIONAL STEP IF YOU DON'T LIKE RAW ONION (like me): Heat the "little bit of olive oil" in a small skillet. Add onion, and lightly sautee for 2-3 minutes until softened. Remove from heat.
3) Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl.
4) Combine bulgur, vegetables, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and vinaigrette.
5) Love your grainy-lovin' self :)