Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grains and Vinaigrette

I’ve done this before, and I’ll probably do it again. I took a vinaigrette that I like on a green salad and poured it over some cooked and cooled whole grains and a few other compatible ingredients to make a different, heartier salad. This isn’t innovative or revolutionary. It is, however, convenient, especially if you happen to keep extra cooked whole grains in the freezer. It’s also nutritious, and, when you get the combinations right, delicious.

This time, I used up some of the Cranberry Vinaigrette I made recently over some cooked barley and wild rice. The Cranberry Vinaigrette recipe makes quite a bit, so this recipe was good for using some of it up. I also cooked up the last of a little bag of pearled barley that had been sitting in the cupboard since I don’t know when. Wild rice also sounded good here, and, as the flavors seemed to be taking on an autumnal theme, I added dried cranberries and pecans. For crunch, I threw in some celery, and for a salty, chewy contrast, I added some little cubes of provolone cheese. I really would have liked to have some green onions to go along, but I didn’t have any on hand. My herb garden is still alive on the patio, however, so I used fresh chives instead, and added some parsley as well.

See, improvising such a salad is really pretty simple, especially if you know of some ingredients, particularly seasonal ingredients, that have an affinity for each other. In this case, the sweet and tart cranberry dressing went well with the sweet, crunchy pecans, simple celery, and, of course, more cranberries. Just about any grains would have worked, but I probably would not have put in asparagus or tomatoes or peppers in the mix, because I just don’t think they would have worked flavor-wise or with the seasonal spin I was putting on this salad.

Well, whatever the theory behind this dish, it’s very good, and it’s a good jumping-off point for tasty combinations based on whatever you might have in your cupboard or refrigerator or freezer. While I ate it as part of a simple supper alongside some roasted root vegetables and winter squash I also think it would be a good accompaniment on a fall or winter feast table. Of course, you could start out thinking of making a salad something like this, but end up with something completely different…and at least as delicious.

Barley and Wild Rice Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
You could make this salad vegan by leaving out the cheese, or add some beans to increase its protein content.

2 cups cooked barley
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup diced celery
½ cup dried cranberries, such as Craisins
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup cubed provolone cheese
¼ cup parsley
¼ cup chopped green onions or fresh chives
½ cup Cranberry Vinaigrette

1. Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and stir until coated. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 6-8 servings. Leftovers can be covered and kept refrigerated for at least a few days.

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