All this gorgeous sunshine lately has me throwing open my windows and craving all the vibrant spring veggies that have flooded the markets. Could it be? My inner bear is done hibernating with her Netflix On-Demand and is ready to get active? Eat ruffage? Yeah, not sure what the deal is…but I'm going to roll with it while the inspiration is here.
I've been craving wholesome goods like wheat berries, and snatching up bundles of asparagus like an addict. A recent trip to Berkeley Bowl West with a few produce-happy enablers left me with an abundance of vitamin-rich veggies that we've been feasting on all week.
Nothing makes me sadder than produce dying in my fridge, so I decided to throw all my odds and ends into one final fiesta of a dish…and this cheery Sunshine Salad was born.
I love all the pretty colors and textures in this kitchen-sink dish. It all just screams "healthy" to me, and makes me feel like summer fun (and sun dresses) are just around the corner!
SLICING AND DICING
I couldn't resist picking up a bag of these adorably diminutive flying saucer squash up at the Bowl. For this salad, I cut off the stem, sliced it vertically down, in half, flipped it on the cut flat side, and proceeded to cut up semi-circle slices. Then, quartered them into smaller triangle shapes to get them bite-sized.
A nice trick I learned for cutting kernels off corn-on-the-cob: place a small bowl, turned upside down, into the center of a large mixing bowl. You should now have a flat surface where you can place the tip of the corn (cut the very tip off so that you have a steady flat edge to rest on the bowl). Now, as you cut the kernels off, sawing in a downward motion, all the kernels will fall neatly into the mixing bowl. Voila!
For the asparagus, I've been obsessed with cutting them into "coin" shapes ever since I saw it done in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. Parents take note, there is just something really fun about eating vegetables in unexpected shapes. I'm pretty sure it makes them taste better.
ON WHEAT BERRIES
If you haven't tried wheat berries before, I highly recommend you give them a shot. This whole grain is incredibly good for you, and a great substitute for rice or orzo. The kernels of nutrition are pleasantly chewy, a little nutty in flavor, and just plain wholesome. They do take a long time to cook (at least an hour of simmering), so plan accordingly, but a time-saving tip I learned from Heidi: soak the berries in water for a few hours or overnight prior to cooking and they'll need less time on the stove.
DRESS ME UP
I stumbled on this "vinaigrette" for this salad because I had a bunch of it left over from when I made this great recipe for Miso-glazed Cod a few days prior.
As I tested out different dressings for my Sunshine Salad, I kept striking out. Pesto competed too much with the flavors of the veggies. Balsamic could do, but it was a bit boring. Then, my eyes fell on that little Tupperware of miso-rice-vinegar-soy dressing, and I knew it would work. The tang of the vinegar, earthy, mildly funky miso, and salty soy sauce combo was just right. The Asian flavors brought out the touch of green onion, and complemented the sweet squash perfectly. Don't you just love it when the stars align like that?
Come to think of it, I ate this salad with just a fried egg on top, but it would also be a lovely side dish to go with that cod. Can it get any better? I think not.
Wheat Berry Sunshine Salad
With miso vinaigrette from Epicurious’s recipe for Miso-glazed Cod
½ cup soft wheat berries
1 ¾ cups water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 ears of corn
4 flying saucer squash (summer squash)
½ bunch asparagus (approximately a dozen spears)
3 green onions
¼ cup feta cheese
¼ cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons miso vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Olive oil, salt and pepper for sauteeing
1. The wheat berries take about an hour to cook through, so you want to get these going first. Rinse the wheat berries, then, in a saucepan, combine them with the water and salt. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for one hour or until tender. Drain any extra liquid and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Toss the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper to season. Roast on a foil-lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.
3. Meanwhile, cook the corn on the cob by steaming or microwaving it. I prefer using the microwave because it’s fast and easy. Simply wet the corn, with husk still on, rinsing off any traces of dirt. Place on a plate and microwave for about 2 ½ minutes. Be careful when removing the husk, hot steam will be released. Cut the kernels off and place into a large mixing bowl.
4. Slice the summer squash into bite-sized pieces and sautee in a large pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper until slightly browned and tender. Add to mixing bowl.
5. Cut the asparagus crosswise, about ¼ inch thick, so that you get little "coins." Sautee in the pan with olive oil, salt and pepper until just tender. When the asparagus is almost done, add the green onion (chopped finely, crosswise into small rings) to the pan. Sautee for about 30 seconds longer, then add to mixing bowl.
6. Add the cooked wheat berries, roasted butternut squash, cranberries, and vinaigrette to the mixing bowl. Combine well, top with feta, and serve.
For miso vinaigrette:
1/2 cup mellow white miso (or light yellow)
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Blend miso, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and cayenne pepper in processor. With machine running, gradually pour in oil; blend until mixture is smooth.