I'm intensely aware that it's been a few weeks since my last post. I may be the world's laziest blogger by typical food blogger standards. The reason is this: I tend to follow intuition and inspiration rather than a set schedule and inspiration is fickle. And there's this, too: whenever my creative projects threaten to overwhelm, I slow down and take a brief hiatus from blogging. And the last of my half-hearted excuses is this: the weather has been gorgeous and I have a stack of new novels. Reading outside in a park or on a rooftop or, preferably, by a large body of water is one of my favorite things to do on warm days. And so, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it's tough to drag myself away from extravagant sunlight and electric blue skies and into a cramped, overheated kitchen to test recipes.
But I'm back today--if only briefly--with some fun news. This week, I'm participating in a "Virtual Salad Party" hosted by California Walnuts. Basically, all week, participating bloggers will be posting and featuring selected entree salad recipes created by one of three chefs: Aida Mollenkamp, Joanne Weir, and Mollie Katzen.
I like walnuts, I like salads--naturally, I jumped at this opportunity. For the featured post, I chose to prepare this Grain Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Dates and Grapefruit by Chef Joanne Weir. You can check out some of the other awesome posts here. Anyway, in conjunction with the "Salad Party" happenings, the generous folks at California Walnuts have sent over an extra copy of Chef Weir's most recent cookbook for me to give away--to one of you. For full giveaway entry details, see below.
But first, a brief interlude to introduce this salad. Entree salads are a default meal for me (and for many of you, I suspect) because they're fast, easy, and chill (to the extent that a meal can be described as chill). There is a sliding scale of "healthy" because anything from hemp seeds to steak is fair game. And salads are open to infinite variation, depending on what's available and what's in season.
This recipe is no exception. It's a creative mix of grains, nuts, herbs, dried and fresh fruit with a bright citrus vinaigrette. Although the original recipe is great as written, I played with some of the ingredients to suit my own tastes and preferences. The recipe calls for equal parts quinoa and millet but I decided to use all millet because I just don't love quinoa that much--sorry, guys. I substituted walnut oil for the olive oil for enhanced walnut flavor and while I enjoy the grapefruit, I may try different fruit next time--red grapes or blackberries come to mind. I may add in some roasted asparagus, too. The salad benefits from a fresh infusion of seasonal greens--I used pea shoots here but anything from wild spinach or escarole to sorrel to baby kale should work. To top it off, I tossed in handfuls of edible flowers until the entire plate began to resemble a high school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." For color, but also, I have no self-control in the presence of edible flowers (see here, here, here, and here). All in all, I found this to be a delightful little lunch/dinner salad.
To win a copy of Chef Weir's cookbook, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite salad ingredient. Don't forget to leave your email so that I have a way to reach you! A winner will be selected at random on June 21, 2014. Good luck!
Millet Grapefruit Walnut and Date Salad (v/gf)
Adapted from Joanne Weir
1 1/2 cups millet
2 grapefruits, washed
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups pea shoots (or other spring greens)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp walnut oil (or olive oil)
1/2 tsp grapefruit zest
2 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice
1 tsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.
To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, walnut oil, maple syrup, and grapefruit zest together. Set aside.
Place the millet in a skillet over medium high heat and toast for about four minutes, shaking the pan constantly. Add 2 1/4 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until all of the moisture is absorbed (about 35 minutes). You may need to add more water periodically if the grains dry out as they're cooking. When cooked, spread the millet out on a baking sheet to cool.
Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about seven minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Wash the grapefruits and segment over a medium bowl to catch the juices. To segment (or supreme) grapefruit, slice off the top and bottom horizontally to reveal the flesh inside. Rest the fruit on a cutting board on one of the flat ends and, with a sharp knife, slice off the peel in strips, working from top to bottom. Work the blade of the knife along the curve of the grapefruit to remove all of the white pith. Then, with a paring knife, cut the segments out by slicing into the grapefruit vertically between the membranes. (It helps to hold the grapefruit in your hand as you do this.). Repeat until you've removed all of the segments and then squeeze the remaining center of the grapefruit over the bowl to extract the juices. Discard the center and remaining membranes. Repeat with the second grapefruit.
Add two tablespoons of the grapefruit juice to the vinaigrette. Season with sea salt.
Toss the pea shoots (or other spring greens) with a tablespoon or two of the vinaigrette and layer at the bottom of a wide shallow bowl to create a bed for the salad. Toss the millet, walnuts, dates, parsley, and grapefruit segments with the remaining vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning and serve on top of the pea shoots.
Notes: Although Weir specifies 15 to 18 minutes as the grain cooking time, I found it was closer to 35 minutes. Also, millet tends to cook unevenly--at the end, some grains will be soft while others will be al dente. That's OK--it's just the nature of the grain. These are my modifications to Weir's original recipe:
- I used all millet instead of equal parts quinoa and millet.
- I added pea shoots to the salad and increased the amount of parsley.
- I added maple syrup to sweeten the vinaigrette.
- I substituted walnut oil for the olive oil in the vinaigrette.