Friday, January 18, 2008
This dish doesn't really need a recipe. It's a Mediterranean-style grain salad with lots of room for improv: Take some big random thug of a grain -- like wheat berries (which I used here), black barley (hard to get, but apparently the most unprocessed grain and worth the long-arse cooking time), wild rice, bulgur, or even delicate little quinoa. (If wheat berries are the thugs of the grain world, quinoa is probably a wee ballet dancer with a black belt in karate -- it's delicate, but it can hold its own).
Then you surround the grain with whatever seems delicious to you. Imagine a tabouli with cucumbers, feta, parsley and tomatoes, and take it from there. Pumpkin seeds, black oil-cured olives and sun-dried tomatoes; dried cranberries and smoked turkey; shrimp and feta, chicken and asparagus, mint and lots of parsley... The list is endless. Before serving, toss the grain in olive oil and lemon juice. Then lay out the spread on the table, and let everyone take what they like.
The thing about this meal, and actually all the mothership meals, is that we're trying to sell the food to our kids. They can't deal with the whole she-bang, so we're offering the dish in installments. Today, they can nibble on the walnuts and the olives and the chicken. Next time maybe they'll be tired and only want carrots coins and cherry tomatoes. Eventually they will be so used to seeing their parents eat beets or feta or shrimp or pecans, never mind those thuggish awesome whole grains, and they will be hungry for something different, and it will all come together.
I really believe that when kids' bodies need some particular nutrient, and if that nutrient is available in the food on the table, that at some point the connection will be made. Both my kids have shocked me with sudden attacks of weird appetites for up-til-then off-limits food. There are nights they suddenly can't get enough of something like broccoli, kale, clams, cashews, brown rice, beans, or whatever. But the food has to be truly available to them, not be "grown up food", separate from the "kid food".
PS This salad is especially delicious with something sweet and tangy like dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds!