Summer picnic salad

Hearty whole grain salads are always a great addition at any picnic. I think the key is to reverse the traditional ratio of more grain to less vegetable, packing this salad full of fresh vegetables and using the grain almost as a condiment.

In this recipe, spring vegetables take the lead and farro, or your grain of choice, assumes a supporting role. Take any extras home, toss with mixed greens, and top with a pan-roasted fish fillet or lean protein of choice and you’ve got a pretty good dinner, too.

Servings: 8

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole grain, like farro, brown rice, barley, or wheat berries
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 spring onion or small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put a large of water to boil for the asparagus and peas.
  2. Start cooking the grain according to package instructions. Soaking the grain ahead of time (up to overnight) reduces the cooking time and also may free up the grain's nutrients for more ready absorption in the body. When done rinse under cold water.
  3. Core the fennel by cutting it into quarters then cutting out the core. Thinly slice the fennel and toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes, or until browned.
  4. While the fennel roasts, trim the fibrous stem end of the asparagus, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Blanch the asparagus in the pot boiling water by keeping it in boiling water for 1 to 3 minutes (for thin to thick spears, respectively). Remove with a slotted spoon when crisp tender and rinse thoroughly under cold water to cool and stop the cooking process. An ice bath also works well. Repeat process with the peas, blanching for only a minute.
  5. Make the vinaigrette by combining the garlic, vinegars, mustard, and olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  6. Combine the cooked grain with the asparagus, peas, roasted fennel, herbs, and half of the vinaigrette. 
  7. Add the feta cheese if using. Taste for seasoning. 
  8. Add additional vinaigrette and salt as needed.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

(includes 1/2 tsp added salt; does not include optional feta)

  • Calories: 200
  • Total fat: 10 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 210 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 25 g
  • Dietary fiber: 7 g
  • Sugars: 3 g
  • Protein: 6 g

Contributor

Benjamin Maring, MD