I recently had occasion to pull out an old recipe that came from my friend and former colleague, Tricia. For a team potluck lunch eons ago, she brought a salad of wheat berries with tomatoes, corn and smoked mozzarella. It was the first time I’d ever had a salad made from cooked whole grains, and I was hooked on the nutty flavor and toothy texture. I’ve made this recipe a bajillion times since, making little tweaks along the way, like omitting the red onion in her original recipe (red onion and I don’t get along), and reducing the amount of grain for a balance of ingredients that’s to my liking. You could make this salad with farro, barley, wheat berries or brown rice; use pearled grains for faster cooking.
This hearty whole-grain salad recipe is easily made ahead (in fact, the salad improves with time, as the flavors deepen and blend). So it’s perfect for busy adults who like to take a healthy lunch to work. It’s also great as a summer side dish, when tomatoes and corn are super fresh. In fact, if you have access to really good, just-picked corn on the cob, you could add that to this salad without cooking it.
This is just another example of how whole grains can make a terrific foundation for a salad or side dish, to which you could add any number of fresh or cooked vegetables, some nuts, a bit of cheese and a simple oil–vinegar dressing. In fact, the July/August of Fine Cooking magazine has what I consider the most absolutely genius mix-and-match primer on grain salads. I can’t find the article online, but you can access a number of the recipes in the issue here. Better yet, go buy the magazine — my copy is dog-eared like crazy.
whole-grain salad with tomatoes, corn and smoked mozzarella
(serves 6–8 as a side)
1 cup uncooked wheat berries, barley or farro, or brown rice (about 2 cups cooked)
1 cup cooked corn (from fresh or frozen)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 to 5 green onions, sliced thin (use more if you like stronger flavor)
1 large clove garlic
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. quality olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 cup smoked mozzarella or gouda, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
Cook grains according to package directions; drain and cool. In a large bowl, combine corn, tomatoes and green onions; add cooked grains. Make the dressing: Mash the garlic clove to a paste with a chef’s knife (or use a garlic press). In a small bowl, combine the garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the dressing and cheese to the grain-vegetable mixture, then add the herbs and toss gently to combine. Taste and add coarse salt and cracked pepper if needed.