February 9, 2018

Food Front: True grain

Grown-in-Canada grain salads are just what you want right now—or any time

By Joanne Sasvari

What if there was a food that was nutritious, affordable, versatile, easy to cook, even better when made ahead of time and, above all, really, really tasty? Wouldn’t that solve just about every culinary dilemma in your kitchen?
Well, there is. What you’ve been craving are grain salads—especially when they’re made with wholesome, all-Canadian ingredients.
“They’re delicious, they’re totally delicious,” says Shira McDermott. “But the biggest draw is they’re a complete meal.”
McDermott and her friend Janna Bishop are co-founders of GRAIN, a Vancouver-based dry goods company that since 2014 has sold high-quality grains and legumes from single-source Canadian farmers. These include the classic pantry staples of lentils, chickpeas and wheat berries, as well as ancient grains such as farro and millet, and even Saskatchewan-grown quinoa.
When it comes to grains, McDermott says, “Canada is a global force and so many Canadians have never had the opportunity to know that.”
In fact, Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of pulses (lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas) and grains such as wheat and barley. Most of these crops are exported; what is consumed here is rarely recognized as the quality local product it is.
That’s where GRAIN comes in. They source directly from organic farmers, naming them right on the box. And because they cut out the middlemen, GRAIN can ensure that each box is filled with a much fresher product than most.
“It’s taking part in something bigger than just walking up to the bulk bin,” McDermott says. “It’s a deeper connection.”
If you’ve been wanting to try these nutritional powerhouse foods—high in protein, fibre, minerals and vitamins—grain salads are the perfect place to start.“They’re super filling,” McDermott says. “They give you a long burn so you don’t get those sugar spikes, and they’re just super satisfying.” Grain salads are also endlessly versatile. Just follow McDermott’s simple formula: Start with a grain, add a legume if you wish, mix with veggies (raw or cooked) and perhaps some dried fruit, toss with a killer vinaigrette and top with cheese and nuts.
And feel free to make them a day ahead for potluck parties and weekday lunches. “That’s the other thing about grain salads,” McDermott says. “They just get better the longer they sit.”
For more info, visit the GRAIN website at eatgrain.ca.

Wheat Berry, Squash and Chickpea Salad

As beautiful as it is wholesome, this nutrient-dense combination of wheat berries, chickpeas and colourful squash is sure to satisfy the heartiest appetite.
Serves 6
1 cup (250 mL) uncooked GRAIN or other wheat berries
1 cup (250 mL) uncooked GRAIN kabuli or other chickpeas
2 delicata squash, sliced into rounds and seeded
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
½ cup (125 mL) thinly sliced red onion
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
3/4 cup (180 mL) chopped, toasted almonds
½ cup (125 mL) chopped fresh parsley
½ cup (125 mL) Poppy Seed Dressing
1 cup (250 mL) crumbled feta cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste

Poppy Seed Dressing:
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
1/3 cup (80 mL) apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup (80 mL) chopped white onion
3 Tbsp (45 mL) honey
2 Tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
1 Tbsp (15 mL) poppy seeds
1 ½ cups (375 mL) olive oil

Cook the chickpeas: Soak the beans in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. Rinse well, place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for 60 minutes or until soft and creamy. (Alternatively, you could use about 2 ½ cups of canned chickpeas.) Set aside.
Cook the wheat berries: Add wheat berries to a pot along with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender but firm. Set aside.
Heat oven to 400°F (200°C). Slice squash and seed well with a sharp knife. Brush two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil, then place the squash on the trays, keeping the pieces separate. Bake for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking.
Fill a small bowl with about 2 cups (500 mL) of cold water, and add 1 tsp (5 mL) of salt. Stir to dissolve. Slice the red onion and add to the bowl of water and salt. Set aside and soak for 30 minutes.
Prepare the dressing: Combine all the ingredients except the poppy seeds and oil in a blender or food processor and blend on high. Add the poppy seeds. Then, with the motor running, gradually add the oil in a steady stream. Transfer the dressing to clean jar.
Drain and rinse the red onions and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the wheat berries, chickpeas, roasted squash, half the parsley and most of the almonds, reserving some for garnish. Add ½ cup (125 mL) of the dressing and mix the salad together gently, adding more dressing to taste. (The remaining dressing will last for about a week in the fridge.)
Season with salt and pepper and garnish with feta, almonds and parsley.

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