Spring vegetable and grain salads are popping up all over the place:
Are you drooling yet?
You know, the Midwest is a really frustrating place to live this time of year, particularly if you are prone to reading lots of food blogs, many of which are authored from places like San Francisco where the abundance of fresh vegetables never seems to end. It seems that even New York has year-round farmers markets and is already enjoying the bounties of spring like the mysterious fiddlehead fern. If these exist in this region, I haven’t found them yet.
Here in Chicago, farmers market openings are still at least a month away. But I just had to join the spring grain salad party, markets or no markets. I settled for some spring veggies from the supermarket, and while the salad turned out fine, I think I understood the slow food philosophy more than ever before. I’ve enjoyed local, farmers market vegetables for a while, but I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the joy of a vegetable tasting exactly the way it should. I assumed this was true, but I never really thought about it until I bit into those supermarket zucchinis from who-knows-where and thought, man, these do not taste much like zucchini, or anything really.
The asparagus, however, was pretty asparagusy.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 cups cracked wheat (or bulgur), rinsed well
- 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
- 1 big handful of fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
Heat cracked wheat in pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add 4 cups of water and salt, bring to boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until fluffy.
Meanwhile, prepare veggies. When cracked wheat has about 5 minutes left to cook, add the asparagus and zucchini to the pot and recover. They will steam slightly as the wheat finishes cooking.
For the dressing, combine the shallots, lemon juice, vinegar, walnut oil, remaining olive oil and salt and pepper.
Pour wheat and vegetables into a large bowl. Mix in spinach, walnuts and dressing. Serve warm.
Top with crumbled goat cheese if you’re feeling cheesy, or goaty.