Category Archives: Side Dishes

Dear Summer,

Yesterday, June 13,  I used the heated seats in my car. Please understand we have 6 winter months in which that is acceptable, June is not one of them. Summer is for A/C and barbeques. Swimming pools and beaches. Beer and mango, black bean salads. Not heated seats. I’d appreciate it if you could get your act back together.

*Warmest* regards,

Gina

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Mangoes bring me back to my childhood and memories of my dad. I can clearly remember the first time I had one.  We waited patiently for it to ripen on the countertop. Once ripe, it went into the fridge to chill. Then, we all waited for dad to cut it “correctly”. Did you know mangoes are the national fruit of India? My dad grew up in Calcutta, India. He knows mangoes.

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From that day on mangoes have been one of my all time favorite fruits. I don’t know why I then tend to forget about them for extended periods of time. It’s almost as if they are too much of a “treat” to just be considered fruit. I equate them more with the likes of chocolate cake. Enjoyed occasionally, not an everyday indulgence. When they caught my eye in the grocery store yesterday, I knew it was time for us to get reacquainted.

Since the weather hasn’t been cooperating, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a salad that at least tastes like summer. Mangoes + black beans + cilantro = summer. Anyone who disagrees with that equation obviously didn’t excel in math class.

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6 ingredients + chopping/dicing + a simple vinaigrette = 1 delicious summer salad

That’s some AP stuff right there. Or not. I got a 2 in AP calc, what do I know?IMG_0322IMG_0332IMG_0340

 

Mango, Black Bean Salad

Makes 6-8 side dish portions

  • 1 large ripe mango, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 fresh ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 very small red onion or 1/4  of a medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro, diced
  • 1 medium jicama, coarsely chopped

Simple vinaigrette:

  • 3 tbsp evoo
  • juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 lemon + 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

After chopping and dicing, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and pour over salad. Toss to combine. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and chill before serving.

 

How do you cut/eat a mango? I have a coworker who pokes a hole in it and then sucks the fruit out.

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Filed under Recipes, Side Dishes

Pea & radish risotto

More continued fun with the camera at breakfast time. Smile

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That would be a variation of Ashley’s amazing buckwheat bakes. If you haven’t made one yet, check out her recipe page for a whole section dedicated to them. I made a bunch of modifications to this morning’s bake but it included banana & blueberries on the inside with an almond butter, coconut butter and almond milk frosting on top. Worth every one of the 30 minutes it takes to bake!

This weekend was kind of a wash weather wise. Yesterday, it was cold and rainy and today, while a little warmer, was still gloomy. Instead of normal summer foods I was craving something more comforting. Risotto is one of those dishes that defines “comfort food” to me. My mom makes a wonderful dried porcini mushroom and sausage risotto in the winter that is creamy, cheesy and everything risotto should be. So many times I’ve ordered a risotto dish at a restaurant only to be served something that is masquerading as a rice pilaf. The difference is in the method. People say risotto is time consuming but it’s really not. Rice takes the same amount of time to absorb the necessary liquid whether you set it all in the beginning and walk away like a typical rice dish or, you slowly add the liquid in stages like a risotto. Risotto is not any more time consuming, it just needs a little more tlc. And I can assure you that added tlc is more than worth it when it results in this.IMG_0291

Since it’s at least supposed to be warm weather season, I decided to keep this risotto on the lighter side with peas and radishes. This was served as a side dish to some grilled steaks but could definitely steal the show as main course if you wanted it to. In fact, it would be excellent with some grilled shrimp as a stand alone dish.IMG_0204

I actually found some brown Arborio rice at the bulk bins last time. This was the bottom of the container though so it was mixed with a little bit of regular, longer grain rice that was left when I poured it in. They technically have different cooking times, like different shaped pastas would, but I just rolled with it. I wasn’t about to pick apart the different shaped rice.

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Aren’t those radishes cute with their little tails? They kind of remind me of tadpoles.

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Anything that starts with butter has gotta be good, right?

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Some diced onion, garlic and shallot.

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You know where this is going…sauté.

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Once the mixture has softened, add the rice to toast and absorb all the oil & butter.

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And if you haven’t yet been convinced to make this. Maybe this will help.

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Some for the risotto, some for you. It’s only fair.

After the risotto absorbs the wine (anywhere from about 1/4-1/2 cup will do)  slowly ladle some heated chicken broth (or veggie) into the pan with the rice until it just covers it. Once it’s almost completely absorbed, add more until all the broth is gone and the rice is fully cooked. Here’s where I’ve heard many an Italian swear by different methods. Some say do not touch or stir the rice at all while it’s going through this process. My mom and family fall into this group. Others say to stir every now and then during the cooking process to release the starches in the rice which makes for a creamery risotto. I’ve tried both and actually prefer the latter. Sorry mom. This works especially well with white rice as it breaks down easier than brown.

While the rice is cooking, prep the veggies.

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And grate the cheese.

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When the rice has absorbed all the liquid and it’s fully cooked (taste test here, ours was a little al dente last night) add the frozen peas, radishes, some fresh chopped herbs and grated cheese.

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Season to taste and top with some crumbled bacon.

Why?

Does bacon even need an explanation? I didn’t think so.IMG_0287

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Pea & Radish Risotto

Makes 6 side dishes

  • 1 1/4 cup brown Arborio rice
  • 40 ounces chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced radishes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley & mint)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked well until crispy (optional)
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Heat chicken broth in small sauce pan over low heat. In large skillet, heat evoo & butter on med heat. Add shallots, garlic and onion and sauté until softened. Add rice and toss to coat. Let rice toast for 1-2 minutes. Add wine and stir rice until wine is completely absorbed. Slowly ladle chicken broth into rice until just covering the top of the rice. Let the rice absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally. Once liquid is mostly absorbed, add more broth again covering only to top of rice. Continue until broth is used up and rice is fully cooked. Add radishes, peas, herbs and cheese to cooked rice and mix. Season with salt & pepper and top with crumbled bacon.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipes, Side Dishes

Not your ordinary pesto

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Looks good right? Recipe to come, but first you’ll have to read about my day. Smile

First of all, thanks for all the nice comments on the dresses! The majority of you picked dress #1 and that’s exactly what I went with. Wasn’t a huge fan of the fabric that trailed off the back on the 1 strap dress. Felt a little too Greek Goddess for me. Works out well too because there are 7 of us as bridesmaids. 5 of the girls had already ordered their dress and 4 of them picked the 1 strap option, so I’ll even things out a bit more with my choice.

After Friday’s sore, slow run I was itching to get out today to redeem myself. The weather was overcast and barely 70, perfect for a run. I filled up the camelbak and hit the bike trail for 5 miles. Awesome run. Even if my face doesn’t exactly scream “yay!”. It was good to know that I just needed some rest and fresh legs.

run

5 Mile Stats: (8:34 average pace)

Mile 1: 8:42

Mile 2: 8:36

Mile 3: 8:26

Mile 4: 8:47

Mile 5: 8:20

 

Came home to do workout 1A of NWOLFW which I was technically supposed to do yesterday but I was still so sore that I ended up taking a complete rest day instead. <—worth it! I still got my 3 workouts in for the week. Hopefully next week the lunges won’t be as bad!

After the workout, I attacked my car which badly needed a cleaning. Inside and out.

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Dad would be proud, I even did the tires. I don’t think the outside of my car had been washed since before winter. It’s just not worth washing in the spring here though because there is a constant film of green pollen on everything until about now.

Up next was dinner. My basil had already almost gotten to the point where it was bolting so I decided a pesto was in order. I didn’t have enough basil for a true pesto so it quickly became an “anything you need to use up that’s green pesto”.  I ended up using basil, parsley, arugula and baby spinach as the greens. I knew I didn’t have any parmesan at home either so instead of the creamy, hearty route, I added lemon to give it a nice citrus kick.

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As well as some garlic and pine nuts like a normal pesto.

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I love how green it stayed without the parmesan mixed in. Seriously, isn’t that the greenest pesto you’ve ever seen? Pesto > marinara sauce any day in my book. This one was a winner. Even better when served with whole wheat linguine with sautéed mushrooms and zucchini.

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The pasta was simple. I sautéed some shallots and garlic then added sliced baby portobellos and the zucchini which I peeled into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Once the pasta was cooked I added it and the vegetable mixture to a bowl and tossed with the pesto. If anything, it needed more salt but all in all a great, fresh tasting dish. The citrus was mellow enough but you could still taste it in the background.

Next time you have a random assortment of greens laying around try making it into a pesto. It’s an easy, tasty way to use up your leafy greens and there are so many variations to play with.

 

Everything Green Citrus Pesto

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 cup packed baby arugula
  • 2 cloves of garlic (if you’re not a huge garlic fan, 1 clove will do)
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Place everything except evoo into food  processor and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Scrape down sides. Process again while adding evoo through top. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

 

Do you make your own pesto? What’s the best thing you ate all weekend?

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Filed under Around the house, Dinner, Recipes, Running, Side Dishes, Strength training

Coconut roasted carrot salad

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I’ve been on a bit of a coconut streak lately, adding unsweetened shredded coconut to my oats in the morning, roasting every possible vegetable in coconut oil instead of my usual olive oil, adding coconut butter to smoothies and the list goes on. So when Kelapo sent me a little jar of their coconut oil to try out I had no problem thinking of something to use it for. Since it’s Memorial Day weekend and pretty much everyone will be attending a BBQ at some point, I figured I’d make something that would be a nice side to all the grilled food. I hate when BBQ’s consist solely of meat, buns, and chips so I went with a vegetable but dressed it up a bit. Smile It was slightly warm in the house with the oven on in the 85 degree temps this afternoon but I’d say the outcome was worth it.

You’ll need about 2lbs of carrots for this. I only had about 1.5lbs of whole carrots so I stole a few baby ones from my hummus dip stash.

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Wash and trim them. I hardly ever peel my carrots, just give them a good wash. You can peel them though if the outer layer ugliness bothers you. Since these were going to be roasted I figured no one would see the outer layer anyway. Slice the carrots on a diagonal in thin strips and place in a large bowl. Mince up a couple gloves of garlic next and grab about 1/4 cup of sliced almonds. Put both the minced garlic and the almonds into the bowl with the carrots.

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Coconut oil wants to be solid. It will get slightly melted in the summertime but it’s never quite like other oils that are pourable (unless maybe your house isn’t air conditioned and gets pretty hot). For this recipe you need the oil to be completely liquid so you can pour it into the bowl with the carrots, garlic and almonds and stir to coat everything. I popped about 2 tablespoons into a small bowl and microwaved it for about 25 seconds, that’s all it needed to completely liquefy. When you  pour the now warm/hot oil over the colder carrots the oil might congeal a little. Don’t worry, once it goes into the oven everything will melt again.

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Pour the carrot mixture onto a baking sheet, you don’t really need to grease it since the oil is coating the mixture already. Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, mixing/flipping once or twice as they cook.

Use the 30 minutes the carrots are roasting to gather up the rest of the ingredients.

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-apple cider vinegar

-honey

-feta

-dried cherries

-shredded coconut

-fresh mint leaves

I contemplated some more nuts/seeds but in the end left it simple with the almonds that were already in it. Not much prep work here. I just did a quick chiffonade with the mint and that was it.

Once the carrots are done take them out of the oven and let them rest a bit to cool down. Since we’re adding feta to the mixture you don’t want the hot carrots to melt the cheese. 15 minutes was about as much patience as I had.

Pour the carrot mixture back into the bowl and add all the other ingredients to it. Add some salt and pepper to taste and garnish with some mint leaves. I kept this at room temperature to serve because I didn’t want the oil to start to congeal from the cold fridge. Obviously, the leftovers are now in the fridge but I will probably warm them up in the microwave quickly before serving again.

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The carrots did a great job absorbing the coconut oil flavor. It really stood out in the dish. I think the addition of the shredded coconut helped bring out the coconut oil flavor too. If you’re not a fan of mint I’d go with basil. I was torn between the two but I’m glad I chose the mint, I like the contrast of it with the honey and sweet cherries in this.

 

Coconut Roasted Carrot Salad

Makes 6 side dish servings

  • 2 lbs carrots
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • handful of fresh mint leaves
  • salt/pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash, trim and peel carrots. Slice them diagonally into thin strips. Mince garlic. add garlic, almonds and carrots to a large bowl. Melt coconut oil and pour over carrot mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine well and pour onto baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, flipping/stirring a few times during baking. While carrots are roasting, chiffonade mint and add mint and all other ingredients to the same large bowl the carrots were in. When carrots are finished roasting, let cool for about 15-20 minutes. Once cool, add carrot mixture to bowl with other ingredients and stir well to combine. Season with salt & pepper again to taste and garnish with mint leaves.

 

What are you bringing to your Memorial Day BBQ?

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Filed under Meals, Recipes, Side Dishes

Summer herbed stuffed tomatoes

It’s so nice to be back home in my own kitchen. I started day dreaming about what I was going to make for dinner on the plane ride home from Gainesville. I knew the weather was supposed to be gorgeous yesterday  (78 and sunny Smile) and all I could think of was something fresh, summery and light. Enter herbed stuffed tomatoes.

Here was how my thought process went down. Nice weather—>something summery/fresh—>lemon, must use lemon—>I think I have swordfish in the freezer from Trader Joe’s (love that store!)—> ok swordfish on the grill, but with what?—>I still have that darn quinoa to use up (told you he wouldn’t touch it while I was gone)—> maybe stuffed tomatoes?—>yes, I could use the quinoa as filling—>but it needs more freshness to it—>I’ll add in a ton of herbs. Perfect!

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I’ve seen plenty of stuffed tomato recipes that get all cheesy, gooey, and just plain heavy. While I do love me some cheese, that wasn’t what I was going for with this recipe. Plus, usually I don’t dig cheesy things as an accompaniment to fish.

First, gather all your ingredients.

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See all those pine nuts? There’s no way I was using all of them. Those babies are expensive! Call me cheap but, when you pay $9.99 for 4 oz. of those bad boys you can bet I’m gonna make them last. A good tip on pine nuts is to store them in the freezer. Since they are a very oily nut they go rancid much quicker than others when stored at room temperature.

  • tomatoes
  • lemon
  • garlic
  • shallots
  • pine nuts
  • bread crumbs
  • cooked red quinoa
  • herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, lemon thyme, mint)

Slice the tops of the tomatoes off and gut out the insides. Careful not to tear through the bottom. I used a melon baller for this but, a spoon will work just as well.

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Little side note on the melon baller… This was one of those kitchen gadgets that I used to think of as totally pointless and a waste of money. I think I bought it a few years ago to make pretty watermelon balls for a summer cook out and figured I’d never use it again. Um, wrong. I use this thing ALL THE TIME. It’s very adaptable.

Lightly oil a glass pan and place the gutted tomatoes in it. Season the cavities with some salt and pepper.

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Mince garlic and shallots and quickly sauté them to take the bite out.

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While that is sautéing (careful not to burn the garlic), add minced herbs, lemon zest & juice, cooked quinoa, bread crumbs, pine nuts and 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a bowl. When shallots & garlic are done, add them to the bowl as well. I actually toasted the pine nuts quickly in the same sauté pan as the garlic and shallots beforehand. You don’t have to do this but it definitely intensifies the flavor of the nuts. Anytime I toast nuts I always think of Rachael Ray on “3o minute meals” saying “your nose will tell you when they’re done!” Am I the only one who found that to be one of her many annoying sayings?

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Salt and pepper the mixture to taste and then fill ‘em up!

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Cook at 450 for about 15 minutes. I actually broiled them the last couple minutes to get a nice charred look on top. If you saved the tops of the tomatoes you can add them back on and cook them with the stuffed tomatoes. I think they make cute little “hats” so I did.

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Isn’t he cute all wrinkled up?

This was perfect. Exactly what I was hoping for. Light, very lemony, and so fresh with the abundance of herbs in there. I thought I might have gone a little overboard as I literally picked every herb I have on my front steps except the rosemary but, somehow they all worked together. I did think about adding just a little grated parmesan but, that went out the window when I realized I used it all up for the husband’s birthday dinner a la Jessica. I think you could totally add some in just don’t go overboard as the idea here isn’t cheesy.

The perfect summer side dish.

 

Herbed Stuffed Tomatoes:

Makes 6 stuffed tomatoes

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts (toasted, optional)
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced herbs (I used basil, parsley, cilantro, mint & lemon thyme)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450. Slice tops of tomatoes off and gut the insides to leave just a shell. Arrange tomato shells in lightly oiled glass pan and salt & pepper the cavities. Toast pine nuts in small sauté pan over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. Use same pan to then lightly sauté shallots and garlic in 1 tbsp. of oil. While shallots and garlic are sautéing, add cooked quinoa, bread crumbs, pine nuts, lemon zest & juice, herbs and 1 tbsp. of oil to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix. Stuff tomato shells with the mixture and add tops back on if you’d like. Bake for about 15 minutes. Broil last 1-2 minutes for charred appearance.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipes, Side Dishes

Mother’s Day wheatberry salad

One of the few redeeming features of the lovely little suburban town we live in is this place.

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Looks like a regular grocery store from the outside right? Well, not quite. First of all, it’s in one of the sketchiest shopping plazas in town. Secondly, hardly anyone in the store actually speaks English. Korean or Spanish, you’re good, but not English. That’s ok though, me and the fish guy are tight. I’m a regular wild Alaskan Salmon buyer of his and we have our little “head nod” way of communicating. I don’t even need to say “salmon, a little less than a pound” anymore. He just starts cutting the filet before I’m even at the counter. The best part about the store however, is that they are ridiculously cheap! This isn’t a full fledged grocery store by any means, but I buy all my weekly produce here and probably pay 1/3 of what I would in a normal grocery store. I don’t know how they do it or what black market they’re getting their stuff from. I choose to remain naive to these things and just focus on the savings and convenience (it’s only about a 5 minute drive from my house and it doesn’t get much closer than that when you live in God’s country).

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I should be much more strategic about my weekly grocery shopping trips and plan my meals out for the week so I don’t have to make multiple trips, but when it’s only a 5 minute drive down the road the incentive to do that kind of planning just isn’t there. I decided I wanted to bring some sort of side dish that included vegetables for today’s Mother’s Day gathering at my parent’s house because the menu as of yesterday afternoon consisted of “meat for the grill”. After surveying the fridge it quickly became apparent that a trip to good ‘ole Hopewell Farm was necessary. About 20 minutes later I had the goods:

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This is the kind of dish that can honestly be made with whatever veggies you want or have. Hate onions? Omit them. My dad hates cucumbers but I’m putting them in anyway. He can eat around them. It’s not Father’s Day after all.

Next step? Wash & chop. That’s it, seriously.

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Look at those knife skills! For some reason I find chopping/dicing vegetables to be incredibly relaxing. I actually look forward to nights when dinner requires a bunch of prep like this so I can turn on some music and dice away with a glass of wine next to the cutting board. Is that weird?

The other element to this side dish is wheatberries. Well, today it’s wheatberries. This is actually a dish that my mom started making a few years back with orzo pasta. I didn’t have any orzo though and any grain will do so I subbed out the orzo for wheatberries instead. I like the chewy texture better actually. Brown rice, barley, any sort of pasta will do though. Use your imagination. Depending on the cooking time for whatever grain you choose you should probably get that going right now if you haven’t already. Wheatberries are simple. Put them in a small sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 30 minutes. I gave mine about 45. 30 is good if you want an intense “chew” factor going on. 45 is a little safer. At the end of the 45 minutes, they’ll have mostly absorbed all the water you put in, but if there is any excess just drain it and set the wheatberries aside.

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As you’re dicing up your veggies just start throwing them into a large mixing bowl. Once the wheatberries are cooked and drained, add them to the bowl as well. A few more additions and you’re done.

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Love my potted herbs. This is parsley, but you could use whatever fresh herbs you’re feeling or have on hand. Basil or cilantro would work well too. If I’m going for more of a Mexican theme I would’ve used black beans instead of chickpeas, thrown in some olives, and subbed out the parsley for cilantro.

At this point you can refrigerate the mix overnight if you’re prepping for the next day (like I was) or you can whisk up the dressing and be done.

Dressing I used:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt/pepper to taste

The dressing can be altered to your liking. Sometimes I use balsamic vinegar. If I were rolling with the Mexican theme there would be some lime juice in there. Just taste as you’re going along and modify as needed. Pour the dressing into the large mixing bowl with the veggies and wheatberries and mix it up.

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Wheatberry Salad:

Serves 8-10 side dishes

  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 3 green onions. diced
  • 2 carrots. diced
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 large red pepper, diced
  • 2 small orange peppers. diced
  • 1.5 cups dry wheatberries
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

Put wheatberries in small sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer for 30-45 minutes. While wheatberries are cooking, wash and dice all your vegetables and put into large mixing bowl. Add drained/rinsed chickpeas and minced parsley. Once wheatberries are done cooking, drain and add to mixing bowl with vegetables. Either refrigerate at this point overnight or mix up dressing and pour into mixing bowl. Mix well, season with more salt/pepper if needed.

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Filed under Recipes, Side Dishes