Oftentimes in the summer I don’t feel like eating (or preparing) big, heavy meals. I’d love to subsist on leafy green salads alone, but truthfully that’s never been my style. I’m a girl who needs a hearty plateful of food. For me, “just a salad” means vegetables, grains, beans, perhaps a little tuna or chicken–something more satisfying than a heap of lettuce.
I find myself keeping cooked grains and beans on hand and then throwing together side- or main-dish salads in a jif. Your gluten-free options are quite plentiful; try quinoa, rice, wild rice, millet, buckwheat groats, lentils, chickpeas, or beans as the base of the salad. Incorporate an assortment of raw vegetables–diced cucumber, carrot ribbons, cherry tomatoes, thinly shaved fennel or zucchini–and then toss the whole thing with a bright, acidic dressing. Lemon juice is a favorite of mine for these light salads, or you could use lime juice or wine vinegar instead. Add some clipped fresh herbs from the garden and you’ve got yourself a winner.
In this particular dish, I originally set out to create a simple summer tabbouleh, substituting quinoa for the off-limits bulgur wheat. But the more I tinkered, the more it became an entirely new salad, delicious in its own right. The combination of shredded carrots, cumin, and mint give it a Middle Eastern feel. You can serve it alongside grilled chicken or lamb, or doctor it up a bit and make it the main dish. Most importantly, use that time you’re saving at the stove to do something more leisurely. A glass of wine on the patio, perhaps?