From Wallflower to “Wow!”

After a bit of hiatus–life got in the way!–I’m back. Still cookin’ away and finding inspiration everywhere…

Recently, on a trip back East, I had lunch at this cute little diner in Philadelphia. Hubby had a “Homemade Meatloaf Pressed Sandwich”, which he said was quite good. Little Missy had a grilled cheese. I was all excited to order a salad that just could not have been more up my hippie-leaning alley: Greens & Grains with Roasted Vegetables. My mouth was waiting impatiently for it to arrive.

Well. Let’s just say the concept was awesome, but they just didn’t pull it off well. I’m not usually a ‘returner’, but when the server asked how I was enjoying my salad, I just had to be honest. There was pale iceberg lettuce, beige grains of some kind, mushy over-roasted veggies (I actually couldn’t tell what kind of veggies they used to be!), and it was all tossed together when it arrived, looking very unappetizing. I thought: This idea deserves way better than this.
So when we got back, I gave it a shot. We now have a new star in the lineup at home and I’m happy to say it’s a doozy: good for you and good lookin’, too!  Hope you like it, too:

G  R  E  E  N  S     &      G  R  A  I  N  S
w/   R  O  A  S  T  E  D    V  E  G  E  T  A  B  L  E  S

Start by cooking whatever grains you want to use. You can even cook them the day before. I used lentils and a Trader Joe’s grain mixture that had quinoa, garbanzo beans and cous cous. Anything you like will do: brown rice, wheat berries, whatever, just be sure to cook them according to the package directions and start them ahead so you’re not waiting on them.

Then, preheat the oven to 350° and start cutting up veggies. I was looking for a visual punch so I used red bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and mushrooms. Cut them all approx. the same size, around 1″ pieces or slightly larger. Put them on a cookie sheet and season them nicely with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. Pop ’em in to roast.
They should only need about 20 minutes–roasted but still a little “al dente”. Too much and you’re back to mushy veggies.

I found it was nice with both the grains and the veggies just warm, not hot, and certainly not refrigerator-cold (if you’ve done them ahead). So while those are cooling down or warming up, depending on what you did, make a quick dressing: 3 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar (I used balsamic for some sweetness), salt, pepper, garlic and some dried thyme. Whisk it all together. It could be any kind of dressing, but I would keep it light, not a creamy dressing.

Now, you’re done! Fix the plate with a bed of spinach mixed with spring mix–really nice and colorful (and way more nutrition than iceberg lettuce!). Spoon some grains onto the middle. Then spoon some of the veggies across the top. Drizzle a little dressing and there you go!

When you serve it, it’s a feast for your eyes! And–I’m even guilty myself–usually a salad-as-my-dinner doesn’t satisfy me and I’m looking for something more in an hour, but this one is different. The grains do the job and it’s really a wonderful thing :  )  Enjoy!

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