It was the middle of winter and the alerts of a tornado watch popped up on my phone. I looked out the window and saw a curtain of rain pouring down. We needed the rain, but I could have done without the tornado watch. It was 5:00 pm and I needed to start thinking about dinner. A dinner that I really didn’t want to make, because after cleaning all day and yelling at the dogs, all I wanted to do was sit on my couch, turn on the DVR, and have my own personal TV marathon.
I opened the refrigerator and stared…and stared…and stared, until it started to chime at me, begging to be closed. I closed the door, still with no idea what to make for dinner. I moved over to the pantry and stared…and stared….and thought to myself, “Dude I really need to organize my pantry.” That is when I saw them, a package of red quinoa and a box of wild rice. It was time for a wintery grain salad, but Obed would throw a fit if I just fed him a bowl of grains.
I looked out the window and it was still raining. The tornado watch still loomed, but I needed protein to feed my man and time was running out. I needed a rotisserie chicken, savior of dinner tables across the land. What I really needed was this chicken to come swooping in, with a red cape on, and land straight on my cutting board. We all know that wasn’t going to happen. So I braved the downpour and headed for the grocery store.
Arriving safely back at home, wet as a chicken and with a rotisserie chicken in hand, it was time for mission dinner.
I prepared 1/2 a cup of red quinoa;
and 1/2 a cup of wild rice.
I prepared the grains according to the package directions and spread them on a sheet pan to cool.
You can tell when wild rice is ready when you can see the grain splitting, and quinoa will have a little curly tail pop out. If you see this and still have some water you can strain it using a fine mesh strainer.
While the grains are cooking I prepared the rest of the salad ingredients.
I took 4 oz of mushrooms, halved them and thinly sliced the halves.
I heated a sauté pan over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, added mushrooms and sautéed until soft and tender, seasoning the mushrooms with a sprinkle of salt as they sauteed.
In a bowl, I combined the cooked grains with 1/2 cup of cranberries, 1/4 cup of pecan pieces, 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh chives, 2 teaspoons of minced fresh thyme, and 2 teaspoons of minced fresh parsley.
Then, I added the sautéed mushrooms to the grain salad.
In a small container with a lid, I combined 1/4 cup olive oil, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I covered it and shook until the mixture was emulsified.
I dressed the salad and tossed it until evenly-coated.
I didn’t use all the dressing, but you can dress it as much or as little as you like. Enjoy a fresh hearty and healthy grain salad with superhero store-bought rotisserie chicken or by itself.
I had braved the storm, gotten a chicken and made a killer grain salad. Dinner was made–I had conquered the dinner challenge with time to spare.
I think grain salads are the forgotten salad. They are a perfect healthy winter salad option, which can be made ahead of time and enjoyed throughout the week. It’s savory and nutty but still light and bright. Of course, being a super fan of savory and sweet, I had to toss in some dried cranberries.
The possibilities of grain salads are endless. So your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make this salad and feel free to change it up and make it your own. Conquer your own weeknight dinner mission.