Greek Grain Salad

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I’m so excited to be working with my friends at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, New York this summer.  The farm grows organic vegetables, fruit, flowers, and wheat and over the last few years I have loved experimenting with the different fruits and veggies that show up in the CSA box each week. This year, Amber Waves opened a beautiful new farm store, and to celebrate, I’ll be sharing recipes inspired by what’s in season and available at the farm all summer long. Wherever you live, I hope you’ll find inspiration to cook seasonally, eat locally, and explore delicious new ways eat your way through the summer!

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This week I’m excited to share my recipe for Greek Grain Salad- an easy, crowd-pleasing side for all your summer P’s (parties, picnics and potlucks!)  Big grain salads are one of my go-tos for cooking for groups, and this one in particular makes great use of summer vegetables – Amber Waves grows peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, parsley and even onions and garlic.

This salad has all the flavors and satisfying crunch of a classic Greek salad, with farro instead of lettuce. Farro is my favorite grain – it’s deliciously nutty and chewy and only takes a half hour to cook, or 10 minutes if you can find the pearled kind. In this case, farro not only makes the salad a more substantial side for a party but also makes it a better dish to prepare in advance, and a better one to bring to the beach!  Speaking of the beach, it might just be time for a dip…

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Greek Grain Salad


Ingredients

  • 1½ cups farro
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch wide strips
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons minced fresh garlic (1 large clove)
  • 1 large English cucumber, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ¾ cup minced red onion
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, ½-inch diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preaheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the farro with 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the farro is just cooked. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour over the hot farro and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the red pepper slices on a half sheet pan and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Roast for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. Set the peppers aside to cool slightly.

Add the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, roasted peppers, parsley and olives to the bowl with the farro. Stir until combined, then gently fold in the feta. Serve at room temperature.


Shaved Carrot and Asparagus Salad

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Last Saturday morning I went to the farmer’s market in New York’s Union Square, planning to check out what fresh green vegetables were finally in season and then decide on a side dish for an impromptu dinner party my boyfriend Joe and I were cooking at his apartment that night. Nice try, me! The market was still largely in winter hibernation mode, with lots of carrots, potatoes, mystery apples from last fall, and a lot of baked goods. It was important to try some of those to see if they might qualify as side dishes.

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The menu needed something light and bright, so I went with carrots and decided to make a fresh, lemony carrot salad.   I also cheated a little and pretended I found asparagus there, because you might already be able to find it, and because there was enough in the grocery store to convince me it’s in season somewhere.

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This is an easy, versatile and absolutely delicious side dish. The shaved carrots and asparagus are tossed in a simple lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette, which softens them slightly. The cumin in the dressing gives the salad an earthy, Moroccan air, and the mint, goat cheese and pistachios turn a simple bowl of vegetables into a dish bursting with flavor and lots different textures in each bite. If a vegetable side could be a showstopper, this would definitely be it.

The only real work here is the vegetable prep, which takes a little patience, but is so worth it, especially because you can make this whole dish ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge until dinner. (Then just add the mint, goat cheese, and pistachios before serving.)

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While the asparagus is shaved with a simple vegetable peeler, there are a few different ways you can cut the carrots. You can spiralize them, you can cut them by hand with a sharp knife (a little time consuming, but works!) or use a julienne peeler.  I bought one last week on Amazon for $10, and it was a total revelation.  If you like to make zucchini noodles, butternut squash noodles, or other vegetables cut into long strips (cucumber! radish! potato?) you definitely need this thing. The blade is a regular peeler on one side, and julienne on the other, and is much sharper than other peelers I’ve used. Just be careful with your fingers!

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Like many of my recipes, this salad serves 4-6 people, but you can easily double it for larger groups. Just get a friend to help with the vegetable prepping! (Winkie promised he would help, but he had trouble using the peeler.)

Shaved Carrot and Asparagus Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pound carrots
  • 1 pound asparagus stalks
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the carrots into long, thin matchsticks. If you have a julienne peeler, or Spiralizer, this will be even easier. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Trim 1-inch from the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin ribbons. (I lay the stalks flat against a cutting board, and holding the asparagus at the thick end of the stalk, shave through the flowery head.) Cut any remaining pieces of asparagus stalk you weren’t able to reach with the peeler into 1-inch pieces and add them to the bowl.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Pour over the carrots and asparagus and toss well.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to six hours. When ready to serve, add the mint and pistachios, and toss well. Transfer to a serving dish and top with additional chopped mint, pistachios, and the goat cheese. Serve immediately.