Summer = Salads! The beautiful thing about salads is that the options and combinations are endless. They can be an appetizer or a side. You can turn them into an entire meal. A handful of leafy greens ~ romaine, spinach, rocket, herbs or kale ~ some fruit ~ blueberries, melon, dates maybe a couple of figs ~ protein ~ nuts, chicken, shellfish how about chickpeas ~ veggies ~ asparagus, beets, celeriac or radishes ~ grains ~ rice, quinoa, farro, pasta ~ extras ~ pickles, croutons, seeds ~ dressing ~ homemade of course!
I think that salads might be one of the most amazing and versatile dishes that you can add to your repertoire. Think about it. You can open the refrigerator door and pull out just about anything (ok, maybe not the hot fudge sauce) to create a nutritious amalgam of tastes and textures. They can be created with fresh fruits and veggies. You can add cooked ingredients like onions, carrots, chicken fish. A little extra rice from dinner the night before? Throw in some julienned carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, jicama, shrimp and top with a peanut sauce and you have a fresh roll salad.
So when I was invited to participate in the Virtual Salad Party sponsored by California Walnuts, I was thrilled to have the chance to test one of the chef-created entree salads.
I tend toward spicy foods. Happening upon the Chipotle & Toasted Walnut Wheat Berry Salad by Aida Mollenkamp, made choosing her entree recipe an easy decision.
One issue for my dietary requirements was the wheat berries. Being gluten-free, that just wasn’t going to work. I could have substituted quinoa, but that just didn’t seem to have the same tooth as the wheat berries. There is one grain that I have been playing with that I thought would be perfect ~ Sorghum.
This little grain really has gotten a bad rap. My mom was almost mortified when I told her what I was cooking. “Sorghum, that is what they feed to livestock. Why on earth would you eat fodder?”
“Well, mom you are right, it is raised to feed cattle, but it is actually an ancient cereal grain that was grown, and still is, in Egypt and much of Africa. It is very high in antioxidants and most importantly, it is gluten-free.” “Hmmm,” she says.
I found that the nutty flavor of the sorghum was a nice compliment to the toasted walnuts in this salad. Though I do think that the next time that I make it I will toast the sorghum before cooking it.
The cooking time of sorghum is quite long ~ 50 – 60 minutes for the grains to reach a nice soft, yet chewy texture. Because it takes such a long time to cook, I did a double batch to use as a substitute in couscous dish on the menu later in the week.
As I read through the recipes I was happy to see that the onion and carrot were cooked ~ I tend to eliminate raw onions in recipes. Just don’t like the flavor. But cooked onions are another story. I add cooked onions to virtually everything savory item that I make. Within reason of course.
As a big proponent of using what is on hand, I did make some other substitutions as well. Golden raisins for the regular ones, white balsamic vinegar for the red wine vinegar; I felt that the golden raisins needed a vinegar of equal color. And chardonnay grape seed oil from a local producer. The results were absolutely delicious.
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- 2 cups whole grain sorghum, cooked
- Kosher Salt
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
- ½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups carrots, small dice
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 chopped chipotle en adobo plus 1 teaspoon chipotle en adobo sauce
- 1 cup toasted walnut halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3 scallions, light green and green parts thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, picked from stems
- Fill a medium saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in sorghum, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until tender but still chewy, about 50 to 60 minutes. Drain and and cool.
- In a medium frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add carrots and cook until just softened but still has a bit of a bite, about 5 minutes more. Stir in thyme, chipotle and sauce and cook until fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, and honey until well combined.
- Place sorghum in a large bowl and add carrot mixture, nuts, and raisins. Dress with vinaigrette mixing to combine. Let marinate for 15 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Just before serving stir parsley into the sorghum mixture and top with sliced scallions