Mixed-Grains with Dried Fruit
I was recently talking (okay, emailing. Okay facebook mailing) with a cousin of mine, when I admitted to eating fig jam spread on bread for dinner. She asked if I would be willing to admit it on my blog, and I said of course. So here it is: I don't cook everyday. I really don't cook dinner everyday. Sometimes, in fact, I make one dish and stretch it into several meals, either eating it all day for every meal or several days in a row.
In his book Mexican Everyday, Rick Bayless talks about the concept of feasting. He says that in most cultures, day to day eating is a simple exercise in nourishment, or "simple preparations of natural ingredients." And periodically, whether it be the celebration of the weekend or more elaborate holidays and events, feasting punctuates the usual restraint at regular and frequent intervals. I like the idea. It's why I love having people over on Friday nights to enjoy a big meal, but feel content to eat something like a wholesome grain dish sprinkled with dried fruit as dinner. Or even more ascetically, fig jam spread on a couple of pieces of bread. (By the way, that fig spread? Highly recommend. In fact, here's a post about it on that same cousin's blog! It's called Dalmatia Fig Spread, and the stuff is addicting.)
With spring right around the corner, and the promise of all that fresh produce, I thought it would be a good idea to use up some of the dried fruit I've been stockpiling all winter. This recipe comes out of that need. It makes a whole boatload of grain. I mean really, probably too much if you're not feeding a seriously hungry crowd. So you could consider cutting it in half, which is what I'd do next time. Also, there's a lot of vinegar. I love vinegar. Love it. But you may not. In which case, I'd suggest adding half and then going from there and deciding if you want more. One commenter said that she uses sherry itself instead of the vinegar, which is a substitution I would definitely try next time. One more note is that you don't really have to be bound by the grains suggested in the recipe. You can use any combination in any proportion, leaving out things you might not have. For example, when I made it, I used only wheat berries and brown rice, no wild. I just increased what I did use. That seems obvious enough. So there you go. Think of it as saving up for your next feast (or, serve it as a side dish for said feast!)
Mixed-Grain Salad with Dried Fruit
Adopted from Bon Appétit
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 cup brown rice
1 cup wild rice
1 cup wheat berries (may also be found under hard wheat berries)
2 cups water
2 cup chicken stock (or veggie, really)
3/4 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4-1/2 cup Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
1 cup chopped pecans
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat, and preheat the oil. Add the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the grains and stir to coat everything with the oil and shallots. Add the water and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the grains, about 40 minutes. You'll want to check it near the end to be sure the pot hasn't dried out and burned on the bottom. Off the heat, stir in the dried fruit and let cool to room temperature.
In the meantime, whisk together the oil, the sage, and the vinegar in a small bowl (you can add as much vinegar as you want, to taste). Pour over the cooled salad and toss. Season well with salt and pepper, then fold in the pecans. They say the salad is best served at room temp, but I eat it straight from the fridge myself.