Today I'm teaching my community how to make this wonderful warm autumn grains, grapes, and greens pilaf. Our phenomenal Lane County Farmers Market has hosted a series of cooking demonstrations generously funded by the Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District. Some fabulous local chefs have been smashing it up with their demos all summer long. And today, it's me, a professional home cook sharing with the crowd. I'm extremely honored to be among this group of people, making our local foods more accessible to our community, and adding value to those shopping at our market.
About This Grains, Grapes and Greens Pilaf
With the exception of olive oil, salt, and pepper, every single ingredient in this dish was purchased at the farmers market. My intent in developing today's recipe was to stuff it full of local ingredients, spotlighting ingredients that abound at the market today and the growers and producers who bring them to us. This very moment. This exact week of this exact season. I wanted my dish to taste like Oregon at this very moment. There is a good chance that many of these ingredients will give you that "terroir", or sense of place, if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live down under, file this away for your autumn cooking next April.
Grains, Grapes, and Greens is a Seasonally Flexible Recipe
This recipe rendition captures autumn, with grapes coming ripe and wintery greens, still tender and young, just now coming to market. Grains are enduring-- we enjoy them throughout the year. Here are some change-ups you might make with this idea, no matter the season:
Replace the grapes with apples, firm pears, or segmented citrus. In the summer, blueberries, pitted cherries, and diced stone fruit will work wonderfully.
Rotate through barley, wheat berries, farro, freekeh, and the array of colorful rices-- black, brown, red, and purple. They all work perfectly as the base for this type of warm salad or pilaf.
What nuts grow in your area? We're famous for our hazelnuts here in Oregon. As a matter of fact, we grow 99% of the U.S. hazelnut crop. Use whatever nut you have or love. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts are equally good here. Even pine nuts, really a seed, not a nut, would be wonderful.
Whatever hearty, sauté-able green you can put your hands on would be fantastic. Kales, chards, collards, mustards, dandelions, nettles, and arugulas are the first ones that come to mind. Swap at your whim, or whatever is available. Today I'm using rainbow chard-- look at its vibrant colors!
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Warm grains like barley, farro, or brown rice, gently sauteed greens, and juicy just harvested grapes and a quick in-the-skillet vinaigrette make this dazzling Pacific Northwest-centric pilaf sparkle. Or, use it as a warm salad. Either way, healthy never tasted so good.
Cook the grains pasta style: Rinse the grains and place them in a medium saucepan and fill the pan with at least 6 cups of water. Add a healthy pinch of salt and stir. Bring to a boil, stir again, and adjust the heat to a slowly bubbling simmer. Cook for 45 - 60 minutes or until the barley is plump and tender. Drain well.
While the barley is simmering, wash the greens and remove the stems. Slice the stems into ½" pieces. stack the leaves on top of each other, and roll the stack into a long cigar shape. Slice through the roll first lengthwise, and then into 1" pieces.
In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the cut greens to the pan and saute, stirring every minute or two, until the greens have become tender and soft. Salt and pepper the greens to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 teaspoon pepper).
Stir in the warm grains and the vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you'd like. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in about half the grapes.
Place the warm pilaf in serving bowl or platter. Top with the remaining grapes and the crushed hazelnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
+ Jane Touzalin of The Washington Post says it best."Hulled barley, considered a whole grain, has had just the indigestible outer husk removed. It’s darker in color and has a little bit of a sheen. Pearled barley, also called pearl barley, is not a whole grain and isn’t as nutritious. It has lost its outer husk and its bran layer, and it has been polished. It has a lighter, more matte appearance."They can be used interchangeably. However, hulled barley is a more nutritious whole grain and also holds its shape better is soups and stews. Hulled barley takes up to an hour to cook, whereas the pearled kind cooks in about 30-45 minutes.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.