A hearty salad to celebrate the mid-summer bounty

Summer’s later-than-usual return brought a bounty of colourful produce overflowing from our beloved fruit stands, farmers’ markets, and of course Karma! From brilliant red peppers to sunshiney yellow summer squash to deep violet eggplants, vegetables beg to be sliced, tossed with olive oil and a simple shake of salt and pepper, and eaten fresh from the grill or roasting pan. A final sprinkle of whatever fresh herbs you have available adds an extra burst of flavour.

Many summers ago, I had the good fortune to work as a farmhand on a small family farm called Pilgrims’ Produce in the sunny Okanagan Valley. As a city person, that experience gave me a renewed appreciation for fresh produce, prepared and served simply — and most importantly, shared with friends old and new. I find that meals always taste best when served alongside an appreciation for where the food was grown and all the care that went into harvesting, processing, and distributing it so that it could make its way onto our plates. 

In this salad, hearty grains are combined with a rainbow of roasted vegetables and topped with a simple dressing of tahini, lemon, mustard, and fresh herbs. This salad is versatile: feel free to substitute whichever veggies that call to you, and use whichever grains you have on hand, from millet to brown rice to quinoa. I’ve just started a miniature herb garden on my porch and enjoy picking a sprig here and there to add a zest to salad dressings.

Bonus: this simple salad makes for great leftovers — perfect for those busy bees who don’t always have time to cook every night, but who enjoy the physical and mental benefits of having nourishing food for those long summer evenings.

Recipe adapted from Real Food Real Health

Serves 8 medium bowls

What you’ll need:

Salad base 

  • 4 c. mixed lettuce/arugula/baby spinach
  • 2 c. dried spelt kernels or other hearty grains
  • Salt and pepper, other dried spices and herbs (e.g. thyme, oregano)
  • 3 lbs. hearty mixed vegetables: summer squash, carrots, eggplants, portobello mushrooms, etc. (bell pepper works well too, but don’t roast them for as long as they will burn)
  • 1 tbsp. organic canola oil
  • 2–3 shallots, minced

Salad dressing

  • juice of ½ lemon juice + zest
  • ¼ c. apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ c. tahini
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard

Salad toppings

  • ½ c. dried currants or cranberries
  • ½ c. slivered almonds, toasted
  • ½ c. pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • ¼ c. hemp seeds 
  • Fresh herbs, loosely chopped
  • Additional nuts or seeds to add crunch and flavour

How to make it:

1. Preheat oven to 375F. 

2. In a medium saucepan, add spelt/other grains, pinch of salt, and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, until grains are tender but chewy. Drain in a colander and set aside for now. 

3. Roughly chop the greens to form the base for the salad and place in a large bowl.

4. Chop the vegetables into cubes of equal size, roughly ½-inch.

5. While the grains are cooking, place the chopped vegetables on 2–3 lightly greased sheet pans. Drizzle the vegetables with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and whatever other dried spices/herbs you like. Toss to combine. Place the pans in the oven and roast for 50–55 minutes.

6. Carefully, remove pans from the oven, sprinkle with minced shallot, and use a spatula to turn the pieces over. Cook another 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

7. In a small blender or using a bowl and whisk, combine all salad dressing ingredients until smooth.

8. Now it’s time to assemble your salad! Add the cooked grains and roasted vegetables to your bowl of greens. Drizzle with dressing, keeping any extra to serve on the side. Lightly combine everything with a spatula.

9. Top with fresh herbs, currants, almonds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and any other toppings that strike your fancy.

10. Enjoy the most flavourful summer salad, and soak in those rays!

Contributed by Sarah Bradley