Sometimes you crave Mac & Cheese. The good, homemade kind made with bechamel and extra sharp cheddar and topped with buttery breadcrumbs. That’s what I had this weekend. It was delicious and comforting and heavy. (See Epicurious for the recipe.) Other times, you actually want something a little healthier. Something that doesn’t make you want to curl up on the couch in a food coma for 2 hours. Especially if it’s a weekday lunch and you’ve got at least 5 more hours of work to do.
For me, a grain salad is the best kind of lunch. You can make a big batch at the beginning of the week, it doesn’t wilt and it just tastes better the longer it marinades. I like to call this kind of salad Power Salad. It all starts with your favorite grain – anything from quinoa to farro. The key to good grains is toasting them in a dry skillet until they’re just starting to turn golden and become fragrant. Toasting gives them a deeper, nuttier flavor.
Once you’ve cooked your grains, toss them with beans, sturdy vegetables and an herby vinaigrette. This time I used edamame beans and a lemony pesto made with almonds. Mix everything together, refrigerate and you’ve got lunch for the week. Lunch that will make you feel great and not put you in a food coma. I like to save good food comas for the weekend when you can really enjoy them.
For the pesto:
2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup almonds
6 cloves garlic
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, cut into small-ish pieces
1 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked farro (about 2 cups uncooked)*
1 lb. shelled, frozen edamame beans
Prepare the pesto by blending all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until there are no large pieces of basil, cheese, garlic or almonds. If you don’t have an appliance you can also mince everything as finely as possible and stir. Set aside.
Boil the edamame in a pot of water for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender and not mushy. Drain and run with cold water.
In a large bowl, toss the farro with the edamame and half the pesto mixture. Taste and see if it needs more pesto. Add more to taste. Reserve any leftover pesto in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze it in a plastic bag and it will keep for a couple of months. (I plan to use my leftover on a pizza later this week.)
Makes 8 – 10 side servings and 4 – 6 main servings.
*Note: before you cook your grains, toast them by setting the pot over medium high heat. Add the grains and stir for about 5 minutes, or until they start to turn golden and become fragrant. Add the water and proceed with cooking.