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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!

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About The Author

For Sarah Ross, everyday cooking is about winging it—with a classic or an old favorite recipe given to her by a friend. These are the recipes that get stained with spills from being on repeat, the ones to share.


  • Thank you for this vegan friendly recipe…it looks delicious!

  • Ditto, the first comment! It looks delicious. Adding it to my menu tonight.

  • This looks amazing!!! Can’t wait to give it a try!!! I may use my own dressing however.

  • Received a grain new to me – Fonio. Looks like this will be a delightful way to try it out. Thanks Sarah.

    • I wouldn’t try fonio with this, Lucy. I was intrigued when I heard about it so I got some and it was a weird texture, more mushy than chewy. I think Sarah’s going for chewy specifically here. I think quinoa would be a pretty great sub for the red rice. Definitely try the fonio separately. I was, sadly, not a fan.

      • Thoughts on using Farro anyone? I really like that grain, a new one for me

        • @Beth I love farro and think that it would be great with this recipe. Trader Joe’s has a quick cook farro that I use in a salad from Smitten Kitchen.

  • This sounds amazing! And just what I need! Thank you!

  • Yum! Thank you for this non-meat dish – looks good, will taste good and good for the planet, too.

  • Looks scrumptious! How many servings does the recipe make? I’m cooking for one. Does it keep for a few days?

    • Thanks for your questions! Serves 8 as a side, and 4 to 6 as a main. Keeps well for 5 to 6 days.

  • Bet it would be good with cooked edamame beans added–a complete vegan meal.

    • Ooo! Sounds great! Definitely a add!

  • This sounds amazing!!! I cannot wait to try it!!!

  • This sounds great! I love the recipes with my fave foods, mushrooms and greens!

  • Stepped on the scale yesterday and the number was so high, I thought it must be broken. Sadly it isn’t! This salad recipe is not only timely but gorgeous. Can’t wait to try it. Thx Sarah!!

  • Oh yummmm!

  • This was absolutely delicious. Just made a double batch, fed a bunch of friends and now feeding me. Can’t decide whether it’s the dill or the green apple that is the secret ingredient—they both add such sparkle.

  • You had me at shiitake mushrooms, Sarah!! Really, at all of it…^^^ There isn’t a recipe of yours I wouldn’t try!! ~ gifting myself a little self care time this morning to save your recipes to my MDK account!!

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