With summer rapidly approaching, I like to have several recipes for on-the-fly gluten-free grain salads in my back pocket. Perfect for picnics or just a simple dinner, you can create your own salad based on ingredients you have around. Start with a cooked grain or bean–wild rice, rice, quinoa, or lentils, for example–add some protein (or not), crunchy vegetables, and a bright vinaigrette to tie it all together. You can even cook the grains a day or two ahead; keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
This wild rice salad, for example, is something I can throw together based on ingredients I usually keep on hand. There’s often a package of vacuum-sealed smoked fish in my fridge to use in scrambled eggs or last-minute pasta dishes. If you’ve never tried smoked trout, here’s your chance; it’s the perfect match for the wild rice and dill. Smoked salmon, always easier to find, makes an admirable alternative. Simply separate the fish from its skin and flake it directly into the salad. Celery and green onions, omnipresent ingredients in my kitchen, add crunch, and a lemony dill vinaigrette ties everything together.
When I’m creating salads like this I do a lot of tasting along the way. After I tossed the salad with the vinaigrette, I asked myself if I had created a well balanced salad, but it wasn’t quite there. I liked the amount of crunch and the smoky/savory flavor, but felt it needed just a touch of sweetness. I tried adding some honey to the dressing, which was too cloying. What about dried fruit? A handful of golden raisins solved the problem, and I suspect regular raisins or dried currants would do the same. You may even try a few diced dried apricots. Experiment a little and make it your own. Cheers! ~LbR