Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest
Grain salads are the "It" salads this summer and it's easy to see why. More pantries are being stocked with alternative grains like quinoa, bulgur, and millet than ever, it seems. The USDA is recommending an increase of grains in our diets. Quinoa, arguably the most mainstream of the "new" ancient grains, is so popular that more people have eaten it than know how to pronounce it (here's how: keen-wah). It's so popular that the UN declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.
This corn and toasted grain salad is a perfect way to get your fill. It's satisfying but light -- it won't leave you feeling heavy and weighed down. And it just gets better with time, making for perfect lunchtime leftovers. Quinoa and basmati rice are toasted in bacon fat to bring out their nuttiness while also maintaining each grain's individual integrity, keeping them separate and ensuring fluffiness. Fresh corn imparts a sweet crunch and cooking the grains in the corn "milk" distributes its flavor throughout. The strips of bacon are used to their fullest, with their fat flavoring the onion, garlic, corn, jalapeños, and grains, while smoky bacon bits appear in every forkful. The saltiness of the crumbly Cotija cheese, the earthy sweetness of the maple syrup, and the freshness of the chives and cilantro bring everything together, promising sweet and savory in every bite.
Summer Corn Salad with Toasted Grains by gingerroot
Serves 6, generously, as a side
3 strips of bacon, finely chopped
1/2 cup cup sweet onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a large knife
4 ears corn, shucked
2 tablespoons jalapeno, minced (with seeds and membranes)
Milk (I used 2%)
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
3 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons finely snipped garlic chives
1/4 cup snipped cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
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Corn and Chardonnay are one of the greatest matches out there. The sweetness of corn pairs classically with the rich lemon flavors of Chardonnay. You could stop here and be happy. With the addition of jalapeños and cilantro, however, you might want to try a Soave from the Veneto region in Italy, as it's rich like Chardonnay, but with a greener and more vegetal flavor.
2010 Kalinda Russian River Chardonnay, California
2011 Bertani Sereole Soave, Veneto, Italy
What grain salads are you serving this summer? Share your cooking tips and serving suggestions in the comments section below.
Like this post? See the Make This Tonight topic from last week: Roasted Duck Breast with Sour Cherries.