Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer Salad Smackdown: Grains of Truth

zeitgeist: The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

It's something I've experienced before, and it could be a complete coincidence. When I was in advertising, I'd come up with a headline that was so original, so clever, a concept that I'd never seen or heard before. My ad would appear, and then I'd see the exact same concept in an ad for some national product that must have been developed at about the same time I was coming up with mine.

So I can only assume that Mark Bittman and I were in the same cultural cloud when we were coming up with our summer recipes this week. His appeared on Wednesday, so he beat me by a couple of days, but I swear on a stack of holy books that mine was in process before I saw his.

The spirit that moved the two of us was inspired by the humblest of ingredients, what a writer like Michael Pollan would call the civilizing influence on the human race. Mine was provided by the frikeh I picked up from the Ayers Creek Farm stand at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, a parched wheat with a faint, smoky essence.

Here is my point: these grains, whether farro, frikeh, bulgur, millet or some other whole grain, are perfect for summer salads. Cook the grain in the cool of the morning, preferably enough to last a couple of meals, then throw it in the fridge to make up later. And I agree with my colleague, Mr. Bittman, that these grains provide the base, the bass note to carry the playful tune played by whatever seasonal ingredients you can lay your hands on, whether carrots, radishes, spring onions, parsley, tomatoes, etc., etc., etc.

Mine was an eclectic collection of sweet red spring onions, the very last of the albacore I canned last summer, avocado, chopped parsley, cubed pecorino and purslane. I prefer to dress grain salads with the simplest of dressings, i.e. olive oil and lemon, but you can get fancy with herbed vinaigrettes or emulsions of balsamic and shallots if you prefer.

Grain salads are hearty and filling, yet cool and fresh, and definitely fit for company. They pair well with a full-bodied rosé, especially served around a table in the back yard with a gentle summer breeze.

Get the other recipes in the Summer Salad Smackdown series.

No comments: