Two weeks ago I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, riding shotgun on a research trip with my husband, spending my days on my own work indoors while he was on rather more exciting expeditions, zooming up and down the river and measuring water levels on a major field campaign. My own contribution to science came, naturally, with dinner. We invited the crew over for a grilled salmon feast and it was my chance to whip out Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite — a book I had been looking forward to cooking out of for months.
This Crazy Salad was one of the first things that seized my attention from the book — a lavish, colorful, throw-it-all-in-the-bowl salad of carrots, grains, herbs, and chickpeas. If it's in your cupboard, throw it in — and it all works!
I shredded carrots, cooked lentils and farro, and — hours before dinner — tossed it all together with the sweet and spicy dressing. It held beautifully in the refrigerator, and the pomegranates were tiny and ingenious pops of tart sweetness.
Diana calls this a "robust, really healthy, and irresistible ('accidentally healthy')" salad. She designed it for winter months, but it is good all year long, especially if you throw in whatever you happen to have on hand that season. "Cook other grains — kamut or wheat berries — and add peas, cucumber, crumbled feta cheese, and mint, other beans, black or red lentils instead of Puy, blueberries, or chopped apples instead of pomegranates. There are all kinds of things you can do if you start off with a cooked grain as a salad base. As long as you stick to the basic quantities for the dressing (1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/4 cup oil), you can flavor it differently, too."
Amen, Diana! I made little tweaks to suit my travel-limited pantry (no harissa!) and it was stunningly delicious, especially next to that grilled salmon.
And why crazy? "When I served this, the kids said 'Crazy, mom,' because they said it was hippy salad reborn. I wasn’t sure whether that was a criticism or a compliment, and then sat back and watched them eat platefuls of it."
At my party, no one called it crazy, but they all ate platefuls too. Highly recommended!
This salad was so beautiful when tossed together, with the vibrant carrots standing out from the lentils, farro, and chickpeas. I love how adaptable this recipe is to whatever legumes, grains, or seeds you want to use, and the dressing gets a nice dose of sweet-spicy kick from the harissa and pomegranate molasses.
- Christine, June 2015
Diana Henry's Crazy Salad
For the salad:
1/2 cup semi-pearl farro or pearl spelt
1/4 cup Puy or green lentils
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
2/3 cup drained and rinsed, cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, whatever you have)
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
A handful of watercress, coarse stems removed
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, or to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon harissa, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey
3/4 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Salt and black pepper
Put the farro or spelt into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the grain is cooked but still has a nutty bite. Cook the lentils at the same time, again in water, until they are tender. (Cooking time varies depending on their age, so it could take as little as 15 or as much as 35 minutes.)
Meanwhile, make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together, seasoning well. Drain the grains and lentils, run cold water through them to cool them down, shake the strainer vigorously to get rid of as much water as possible, and transfer to a serving bowl. Season and add half the dressing.
Toss in all the other ingredients (if you want to assemble the salad ahead of time, don’t add the watercress until just before serving) and add the rest of the dressing. Taste for seasoning: You might want a little more salt, black pepper, or harissa, or you may even want more white balsamic vinegar.
→ Check out Diana's book! A Change in Appetite by Diana Henry
Recipe reprinted with permission from A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley 2014.