Monday, June 9, 2014

Green-Flecked Buckwheat Salad with California Walnuts - #VirtualSaladParty

Summertime is perfect for a salad celebration! And California Walnuts has a mouthwatering collection of entree salad recipes to choose from! Created by celebrated chefs, you're sure to find some crowd-pleasers in there!

I found several salads that looked like they would fit my tastes, skill level, and ingredient preferences (I didn't want to have to do too many substitutions for meat, dairy, or gluten!) I ended up choosing a vegetarian Green-Flecked Barley Salad with Walnuts recipe from cookbook author Mollie Katzen.

My only complaint about the recipe is that the ingredient list calls for "walnut halves, lightly toasted" but gives no direction on how to toast them. I don't like when recipes assume skills like that! I don't know all the cooking techniques and such, so I had to actually find out how to do this on my own! Luckily, walnuts.org has easy instructions on how to toast walnuts. Well, and the ingredients are listed poorly. Usually you want to list them in the order they appear, or separate the dressing ingredients from the salad ingredients, to make life a little easier for the reader. But I was able to figure it out!

Since we can't have barley because of a gluten intolerance, I decided to try some organic buckwheat groats instead! (But brown rice or quinoa (or a mix of both!) would be great options as well.) I also used regular organic raisins instead of plums or golden raisins, since I couldn't find organic plums anywhere, and the organic golden raisin tub was apparently mis-labelled, as I got brown raisins in mine!

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Green-Flecked {Buckwheat} Salad with Walnuts
Ingredients:
1 c raw buckwheat groats (or brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, etc)
1 c walnut halves (or smaller bits)
2 c freshly shelled edamame
1/2 c minced red onion
1-2 c chopped broccoli florets
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 c golden raisins
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, divided (or to taste)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp any "sweet" vinegar (white wine vinegar, pomegranate vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp light-colored honey or agave nectar
1 tsp minced garlic (1 clove, minced)
Black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook buckwheat groats (or rice or whatever) plus 1/4 tsp salt per package directions. My buckwheat groats called for 2 c water per 1 c groats, bring to a boil, then turn to Low and cover for 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, place walnut halves on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes (feel free to shake or flip them halfway through, but not required.)

Place edamame, minced onion, and chopped broccoli into a colander. Drain cooked buckwheat over the vegetables in the colander, cooking them slightly in the process. Wait a minute or so, then rinse under running water, shake out excess, and leave to drain for a few minutes.

While the buckwheat and vegetables are draining, combine the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt, whisking to blend. You can combine in a large bowl to toss the salad in with the dressing, or in a smaller bowl to pour over each serving and mix in there. Note: letting the onion in the salad marinate in the dressing will help soften the raw onion-y flavor.

Stir the buckwheat and veggies into the dressing and add celery and mix together, -or- combine celery with buckwheat mixture and let each person add their own dressing and mix to combine later.

Serve immediately or cover and chill until serving time. Serve topped with toasted walnuts and raisins.

You can do fancy stuff like garnish with celery leaves and lemon wedges, but that's too gourmet for me! Plus I didn't have any spare lemons...

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I ended up making quite a few substitutions from the original recipe, either by design or by accident. We don't actually own any white wine vinegar, nor can I see a pressing need to own it on top of the regular vinegar, apple cider vinegar, pomegranate vinegar, and balsamic vinegars that I already own. So I just used apple cider vinegar and called it good.

I also skipped the scallions, since I'm not a fan of raw onion flavor and already had some red onion in there. And despite reading the recipe multiple times, and even writing it all out to bring grocery shopping with me, I totally missed the mayo every time! Which is fine, as I'm not a huge fan of mayonnaise flavor either. I liked it just fine the way I made it, and even the red onion wasn't so terrible, being slightly cooked by the hot buckwheat, and marinated in the vinegar dressing.

I opted for the suggested edamame instead of fava beans, mostly because I have no clue where to find fava beans. I've only ever seen them for very short periods of time at my organic CSA farm, and they didn't have any this week. Plus I can't think of fava beans without that line from Silence of the Lambs running endlessly through my head. My older daughter gets creeped out when she catches me doing those air sucking noises...

Even though I only added half of the oil called for in the dressing, I felt that there was still way more dressing than I needed. I tend to go light on dressing though, and just mix it up really well, giving everything a light layer. And other than the 1 cup of uncooked buckwheat (subbed for barley,) I tended to go less for each of the other ingredients. So almost 1/2 cup of dressing might be the perfect amount for 6-8 cups of salad for anyone else.

Over all though, yum! I would definitely make this again! In fact, while I was taking photos, my pint-sized assistant came out and demanded "I eat it?!" so I quickly made a plate for her so she'd stop grabbing and dribbling buckwheat all over my set-up (which is why the photo above is so closely cropped... both plates were only half-full! Haha!)

Other than trying to juggle the logistics of boiling and chopping and toasting simultaneously (I'm usually a one-function cook! Hahaha!) this was so easy to make! And I was pleasantly surprised by the buckwheat groats! They were very mild and almost buttery flavored. I was expecting something a little stronger and grittier, like the buckwheat flour I've used in some kid-rejected baking recipes!

Celery w/ SunButter and Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips, organic cherries, Green-Flecked Buckwheat Salad w/ Walnuts
I even had enough left over for some lunch for the next day! My EasyLunchbox was perfect for a large helping of salad plus some healthy sides. This salad even tasted good cold!
(Note: I packed this right before heading out to eat lunch in the park with my toddler, so I went ahead and added the raisins and walnuts. I would have packed them in a separate container or one of the side compartments to keep them dry and fresh had I packed that morning or the night before.)

My favorite part about making this dish was eating it, of course! But I also loved the smell of the freshly toasted walnuts! Yummm!

Check out some other mouth-watering salads featuring California Walnuts at the Virtual Salad Party!

[Disclaimer: I will be receiving a walnut care package, including some California Walnuts and other goodies, plus two copies of Mollie Katzen's latest cookbook, one for me, and one to give away! Due to a delay in shipping, I haven't received them yet, so I'm not sure which cookbook is coming. I am not receiving any other compensation for this post, and all opinions are my own.]

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