Friday, April 16, 2010

Book club salad

My book club met at place last night and earlier this week, it had occurred to me that I needed to come up with something to feed those bitc— I mean, the ladies. Somehow or other, I landed on this recipe, which sounded springy and delicious, especially since I already had most of the more obscure ingredients — Meyer lemons, Trader Joe's Harvest Grain blend, walnut oil — in the house. I tweaked it a bit, mostly by adding things, and I fully admit that there are a lot of components that need to be dealt with separately and then mixed together, but it's worth it. This was really, really good. I was planning to hew more closely to the recipe, but I didn't realize that it called for 8 oz. of the Harvest Grains blend but that the bag is 16 oz. until I'd already cooked it all. The asparagus was a little lost in all that grainage, so I rounded it out with some baby spinach and tofu.

I've written the recipe as though you were doing it all at once, but for this batch the process was made slightly less onerous by putting it together over a couple of evenings: cooking the grains, tofu and asparagus and making the dressing the first night, then toasting the almonds, chopping the spinach and adding the cheese right before I served it. (Speaking of the cheese, the Hungarian feta that they've started carrying at Sahadi's is pretty much the best thing ever, super creamy and really strong and sheepy and salty AND under $4/lb. ) Originally I was annoyed that I hadn't added the spinach while the grains were warm, so that it would wilt some, but I really like it as is, crunchy and lively and more salad-y.

Book Club Salad
adapted from The Kitchn

1 c. barley
16 oz. Trader Joe's Harvest Grains blend OR 12 oz. Israeli couscous (or, as my friend Katherine calls it, "big couscous") and 4 oz. quinoa
1 c. sliced almonds
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1–2" lengths
1 pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1" cubes
1 T or so soy sauce
5 oz. baby spinach, roughly chiffonaded
2 Meyer (or regular) lemons, zested and juiced
1 T walnut oil
olive oil
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled

Cook barley in salted water until al dente, drain and add to large mixing bowl. Cook other grains according to package directions (for the TJ's blend, I always have to add more water and cook longer). Add to barley in bowl and mix together, adding a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
Toast almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant. Add to grains. Heat a bit of olive oil in the same pan and cook asparagus until crisp-tender, just a minute or two. Add to the grains. Add more oil to the pan if necessary and brown the tofu cubes, adding the soy sauce at the end. When it's been absorbed, add it to the grains mixture.
Add the lemon zest to the salad. Mix the juice with the walnut oil, drizzling olive oil into the mixture and whisking, tasting occasionally, until it tastes balanced to you. Add the dressing to the salad and mix well. Stir in the feta.

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