This December, as tradition dictates, we have proven, collectively and individually, that one can subsist quite happily on fancy cheeses, all the vegetables smothered in butter and cream, cookies and chocolates and cakes. The carnivores among us have gone fully in for giant roasts, the richer and bigger the better. Even the leftovers from all this bounty are an extravagance. It’s been a lot of fun.
But at some point it’s time for a reset. The moment came for me a few days after Christmas when I woke up craving water and one piece of lettuce, maybe some weak black tea. Restraint, wisdom, and hydration.
So, for January, I offer you a cheerful, warm grain salad. No penitence or restriction, just simple, tasty, flavor-packed sustenance. It is green with lots of spinach and herbs, meaty with shiitake mushrooms. Endlessly adaptable. Try it with your favorite grains.
I made this batch with wild and red rice, both very affordable at Trader Joe’s lately. Any chewy whole grain rice will be good, even just brown rice alone. Best news—you can cook the grains together all at once. This big batch is good for dinner, as a side or as a desk lunch, with a clementine for dessert. And it goes like this . . .
1 cup wild rice
1 cup red rice
2 cups diced celery, plus leaves if available
2 cups diced white onion
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large bunch spinach, coarsely chopped
1 large green apple, diced
1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup dill, coarsely chopped
Dressing made with ½ cup olive oil, 3T soy sauce, 3T maple syrup, salt and pepper whisked together
- Cook the rices together in stock or water seasoned with salt according to your favorite method. I used my rice cooker. Here are three stovetop methods.
- While the rice is cooking, warm some olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onions and celery over medium heat until soft and golden.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add half the spinach and cook until just wilted. Turn off heat.
- Once the rice is cooked combine it in a large bowl with the sautéed vegetables, the remaining raw spinach, diced apple, most of the herbs and most of the dressing.
- Season with salt and pepper and toss till all grains and vegetables are well integrated. Taste and add more dressing as desired. Garnish with the remaining herbs and serve warm or at room temperature. And feel good.
Serves 8 as a side and 4–6 as an entrée. Keeps very well for 5–6 days.
Happy New Year everyone!