We are having a little fling with Meyer lemons. A friend brought us two whole bags of organic Meyer lemons from California, and we're putting them to good use. First that lusciously easy pie, and now a grain salad that could be a side dish, main dish, lunch or dinner. It has all that herbal fragrance of Meyer lemons, along with the spring freshness of crisp asparagus spears, hearty grains, and a bit of cheese smeared through to hold it all together. Oh, and toasted almonds for crunch, too.
We really, really like the mix of grains in this recipe. Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend is a great base, and we added chewy spelt too. We used the Trader Joe's 8-ounce package (it includes a little dried green and red pepper, but this didn't seem to affect the flavor too much). Farro is also a great choice for a salad like this.
Omit the cheese and you have a vegan dish, too. This is hearty enough for a main dish for lunch, and the grain gives it a filling heft without being overly heavy.
The textures are just very enjoyable - soft and silky grains, chewy spelt, crisp asparagus, soft cheese and crunchy almonds. The flavor of the lemon soaks into everything; if you don't have Meyer lemons just use whatever lemons you can get your hands on.
Meyer Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheeseserves 6
8 ounces uncooked spelt or farro
3 cups water
8 ounces uncooked pearl couscous, or Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend
1 3/4 cups water
1 pound asparagus
1 cup sliced toasted almonds
4 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt and pepper
Cook the spelt or farro in a large saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat, adding one cup of water at a time and stirring until absorbed before adding more. Keep cooking and stirring until the grain is al dente and dry with no water remaining to be absorbed.
Meanwhile, simmer 1 3/4 cups water in a small saucepan. Add the Harvest Grains blend, stir, cover and turn to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove the lid and cook, stirring, until any remaining moistness evaporates. Mix the two cooked grains in a large bowl and set aside.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut each spear into a 2-inch piece. Rinse out the large sauté pan and dry. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, and cook the asparagus until just barely crisp-tender - about 1-2 minutes. Add to the grains and toss.
Also toss in the sliced toasted almonds, goat cheese and lemon zest.
Mix the Meyer lemon juice with the oils, taste, and adjust. Pour over grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.
This salad lasts very well in the fridge; the herbal flavors of the Meyer lemons bloom nicely when it sits.
(Images: Faith Hopler)