Editor's Note: Welcome to the third year of The Vegan Experience! All month we're exploring the vegan lifestyle, from dining out to eating in, developing a slew of delicious recipes for vegan appetizers, snacks, and entrees along the way. For more posts in the series, check here!
Some of my favorite recipes are born not of conscientious effort but from accidental circumstances. Take this carrot and grain salad, for instance. Did I head up to New Hampshire last weekend for a ski getaway and plan on sticking all these ingredients together? Not exactly. But as it turned out, there were some fantastic-looking little carrots at the supermarket and the house we were staying in had a stray bag of wheat berries hanging out that looked like it could use some buddies.
Ok, I lied: the accidental circumstances led to the first iteration of this salad, but it was delicious enough that it deserved some subsequent conscientious effort to whip into publish-able state.
On my first run-through, I cut up the carrots before cooking them, but I found that you get more even cooking and better flavor retention if you cook the carrots whole, slicing them only after they get tender. In place of wheat berries, I used rye berries, a delicious grain that Niki recently introduced me to as part of a long-term research project she's working on. I simmer them with a bay leaf until they're tender but not bursting out of their hulls.
Celery and onions have always been here, but rather than dicing them, I settled on thinly slicing them to give them a bit more textural significance. The cilantro and bright mustard, lemon, vinegar, and olive oil-based dressing made the final cut as well.
Finally, toasted Marcona almonds add some crunch to complement the rye berries' chewiness.
I've been recently accused of being on a junk food kick here on The Vegan Experience. Nachos, mac and cheese, and fried plantains with guacamole are all super-tasty fare, but not exactly the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Hopefully this hearty meal-sized salad will satisfy your whole grain and vegetable cravings.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.