Oh my goodness gracious is this salad ever good. I can take absolutely NO credit for creating it. But I urge you, if you enjoy pasta (the Israeli couscous) and a few grains (baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa), along with asparagus, almonds and goat cheese, to read on. Well, this recipe will make you sing! And, it’s going onto my carefully crafted “Carolyn’s Favs,” my separate page listing all of my favorites of everything I’ve ever posted.
We were at a family gathering a couple of weeks ago where someone brought this dish. After tasting it, and taking a small spoonful of seconds to try to deconstruct it, I found out our daughter-in-law’s cousin’s husband Chris brought it. I made a beeline to him, and began asking questions. After listing off the ingredients, he told me he’d found the recipe over at thekitchn.com blog (it’s part of the Apartment Therapy website). When I did a search for some of the ingredients there, this recipe popped right up. Oh, happy day! It was uploaded to their site in 2008 by Faith Durand.
The basis of the salad is a mix produced by Trader Joe’s (called Harvest Grains Blend). But, if you don’t live in Trader Joe’s country, then you can easily substitute Israeli couscous and farro (spelt) and call it even. The two types would need to be cooked separately (the farro will take a lot longer than the couscous), but you’ll still get all the greatness of this salad using those instead.
The recipe online calls for using half farro/spelt and half of the Trader Joe’s grains mix. But I didn’t have any farro, and Chris’ salad I’d tasted didn’t have it, either. So, I’ve altered the recipe to use just this mixture.
But what MAKES the salad is the overtones of fresh lemon juice. It really doesn’t have all that much other stuff in it (fresh asparagus, toasted almonds, olive oil, walnut oil, salt and pepper plus the zest and juice of a couple of lemons. I happen to have Meyer lemons, but you can substitute any kind of fresh lemons. Remember, though, that Meyers are a bit sweeter, so regular lemons might require less juice. Taste it and see what you think.
This salad is a shoe-in for a summer dinner/barbecue/picnic. It can be made ahead – it also keeps well. I can attest to that – as I write this, it’s 5 days now since I made it and it’s every bit as good today as it was the first. Soooo, if you’ve learned to trust my judgment, and my recipes, please do print out this one and make it right away quick. OKAY? Okay! And my thanks to Chris for sharing the recipe origin.
Meyer Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese
Recipe By: Adapted from Faith Durand at thekitchn.com blog 4/2008
Serving Size: 8
NOTES: You can use a combination of farro (spelt) and Israeli couscous, if you’d prefer. Use 8 ounces of each, cook separately, then combine when they’ve cooled.
3 1/2 cups water
16 ounces Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend — or see Notes
1 pound asparagus
Olive oil to cook asparagus
1 cup sliced almonds — toasted
4 ounces soft goat cheese — chilled and crumbled
2 whole Meyer lemons — zested and juiced (or regular lemons)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the Harvest Grains blend according to package directions (3 1/2 cups water to 16 ounces of the grain mixture) in a medium saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes until just barely cooked through, remove the lid and cook, stirring, until any remaining moisture evaporates.
2. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut each spear into a 2-inch piece. Rinse out the large sauté pan and dry. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, and cook the asparagus until just barely crisp-tender – about 1-2 minutes. Add to the grains and toss.
4. Also toss in the sliced toasted almonds, goat cheese and lemon zest.
5. Mix the Meyer lemon juice with the oils, taste, and adjust. Pour over grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.
6. This salad lasts very well in the fridge; the herbal flavors of the Meyer lemons bloom nicely when it sits. If you want it to look particularly attractive, save some of the asparagus, almonds and goat cheese to sprinkle on top when it’s served.
Per Serving: 443 Calories; 22g Fat (44.0% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 7mg Cholesterol; 60mg Sodium.