Wednesday, April 24, 2013

three grain salad

Let me start by saying this: I'm not a doctor.  Or a dietician.  But as a casual observer, it would seem that carbs are the enemy of man.  I see more and more students needing gluten-free diets every year for serious health reasons, and I also note that many a friend has had lots of success loosing weight on the paleo diet.  In the case of the former, I hope medical science soon explains the cause of rising gluten intolerance, but I have a bone to pick with the latter (pun intended!).  Not with the paleo diet, per se, but with the (mis)use of the terms "paleo" and "caveman."

Again, I'm not a doctor or a dietician,  but I know as a historian that our paleolithic, pre-agricultural, "caveman" ancestors ate tons of carbs.  Any anthropologist can tell you that hunting alone isn't a reliable and efficient enough source of energy to support human groups.  Perhaps we forget that gathering of grains has always been central to human survival because we imagine grain growing in perfect rows of industrially fertilized farmland, but grains are wild and can be gathered as plentifully (if not more so) than fruits and vegetables.  Grains and carbs aren't the enemy of human genetics: in and of themselves they don't make you plump (although carbs in the form of twinkies, do).  Eating grains and carbs and not burning off the complex carbohydrates that provide you with really efficient little packages of energy will make you plump.  We're programmed to store this energy that is meant to eventually be expended.  So if you were more plump eating carbs than on your paleo diet, it just meant that your body was working exactly the way it was programmed to work: saving your padded ass in the case of drought or famine.  It's just our lifestyles that have changed (decline in drought, famine, and general energy expenditure). 
Really, I'm not trying to bash my paleo friends at all.  Your fit, post-industrial bodies are getting all the energy and simple carbs needed for your lean physique.  Chances are, you're in better shape than me.  All I'm saying is that this salad full of three unrefined, whole grains is just as "paleo" as steak.  (Maybe more).

So go eat like a caveman and make this three grain salad recipe.  It's perfect for finding yourself with random and smallish amounts of barley, farro, wheatberries, quinoa, millet, or whatever whole grains you might have around.  Special thanks to Mandy over there at Lady & Pups (my favorite food blog of many months now) for her arugula pesto inspiration.
Ingredients (makes 6-7 servings):
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1/2 cup farro
  • 1/2 cup wheatberries
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped radish
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (I used yellow)
  • 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. pepper

In three separate pots, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil for cooking each of your grains.  The grains all take around 15-20 minutes to cook in simmering water, but drain whenever they are al dente.  Spread them on some parchment paper to cool.
Chop up the radish, onion, and tomato while your grain cooks.
In a blender or food processor, pulse the arugula, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, half the pine nuts, salt, and pepper until smooth. 
In a large bowl, combine the grains, pesto, vegetables and remaining pine nuts.  Add any additional oil, salt, or pepper needed for the right seasoning and consistency.
I tossed it with more arugula for serving and found it was great with a dollop of hummus.


  1. Just gorgeous! Come visit and make it for me.

  2. I hate having to find a recipe for finishing off even one of those grains. Now I have one dish to finish off all three!

    Perhaps it's more proper diagnosis of gluten intolerance than rising rate of gluten intolerance; I read that 15% of the population has some form of gluten intolerance. A little off topic, but I watch Survivor and wonder when they will have a bonafide vegetarian on the show, someone that will refuse to eat meat or fish, even though it is the only source of food at the time besides coconut...Would a vegetarian survive among our paleolithic ancestors?

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