Recipe: Summer Grain Salad
One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Kristen Jovanelly, garden educator and manager at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.
Some of these sweaty, smelly farm nights at the Sylvia Center have had us yearning for the cool fall days necessitating layers. Think of the scarves, the mittens, and that glorious button down flannel! In an effort to appreciate with summer warmth, particularly in light of last week’s solstice, we decided to focus on food layers with the students from Knickerbacker Middle School with a spring grain salad.
Many of our June crops can be represented with one sound: crunch. We like to maintain the fresh-from-the-garden crispy integrity of all of our radishes, peas, asparagus, and fresh scallions by giving them a light sauté in olive oil. They add bright flavors, colors, and satisfying lip-smacking to any summer recipe, especially when paired with al dente Israeli couscous and wild rice. At first an unlikely duo, couscous and wild rice bring out the best in one another. Couscous is so perfectly round and plump, a comforting and familiar presence in the bowl. On the other hand, every grain of toothsome wild rice is earthy and nutty. When cooked, it blossoms, shedding its skin and fulfilling its full potential as a main player in any recipe, regardless of season. These two grains seem equally poised to be in a coming-of-age food tale as a grain salad.
Finish off the recipe with a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing for a complementary zing of citrus. Don’t shy away from herbs and spices. The additional complexity of roughly chopped mint is surprising, but pairs perfectly with tangy feta. And if you’ve got garlic scapes, use them — all the time, everywhere, in every dish. Gaining a mastery of flavor layering is not easy. Trust your instincts and play up classic flavor matches with different flavors, textures and colors. And when in doubt, add edible flowers.
Summer Grain Salad
1 cup cooked couscous
1 cup cooked wild rice
½ cup sweet peas, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
¼ cup garlic chives or scapes, minced
¼ cup crumbled feta
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Lightly saute the peas, asparagus and radishes over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
2. Toss together the couscous, rice, vegetable mixture, scallions, zest and herbs until combined and set aside.
3. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil until emulsified. Drizzle over grain and vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and top with crumbled feta.