Grain salads are usually best when made a day or two in advance. Spend a couple hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon making a big melange of whole grains, vegetables, nuts and cheese. These salads improve with time and can be a lifesaver for lunches or last-minute meals. But there’s a catch: you’ve got to plan ahead.
Luckily, that isn’t entirely necessary. If you’ve got a craving for what is basically a no-cook meal — and, let’s be honest, who isn’t when temperatures climb to the mid-90s — a grain salad can come together in a jiffy with some clever shopping.
There are an abundance of precooked, vacuum-sealed grains and beans on supermarket shelves today. Some aren’t the best salad fodder (looking at you, Uncle Ben’s), but after taking a gander at the organic section of the grain aisle, it is easy to find packets of whole grains without any funky ingredients. The recipe below was developed using a mix of brown rice and quinoa, but pretty much anything will do. Pick a pack you like and then ignore the microwave directions.
These grains are all fully cooked. Since you’re serving them at room temperature, there’s no need to go through the trouble of heating them up and cooling them down again. All they need is a flavor-packed dressing and a generous handful of herbs, and you’re almost entirely to dinner already.
Here, the grains are tossed in a sun-dried tomato and lemon vinaigrette. Make sure to utilize both the tomatoes and the oil in which they’re packed to not only save on ingredients, but also to infuse even more umami flavor. A good handful of toasted walnuts adds critical texture, and a full of chopped parsley brings color and herbaceousness. All that’s left is to decide whether you want to spring for a bonus ingredient — crumbled feta — or keep the dish just as it is. You’ll be happy either way.
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