Take a Lesson from Mediterranean Whole-Grain Salads


Fresh Tabbouleh Salad

Americans are very familiar with an iceberg lettuce salad with cucumbers and tomatoes. It's served as a side salad or garden salad all over the country.  But.. what about the zillions of other options for salads out there? Two of the biggest struggles for people who are trying to improve their diets are adding whole grains as well as vegetables.  Well, what if you could kill two birds with one stone and add whole grains and vegetables to the same dish? 

People often think of the Mediterranean diet as Italian, and maybe more specifically, Tuscan cooking due its emphasis on hearty vegetables.  The truth is, dietitians are actually referencing the entire Mediterranean region, north and south of the Mediterranean Sea, because of the similarities in the fresh foods, as well as the seasoning that they use and how they use them.  Using cooked whole grains mixed with fresh or dried fruits, nuts, and vegetables is a very common dish in many Mediterranean regions. 

Perhaps the most well known is tabbouleh.  This Greek/Middle Eastern salad is made up of bulgur, which is a type of cracked wheat, combined with fresh parsley and other herbs, and some combination of onions or scallions, and tomatoes.  It can also include nuts such as pine nuts.  It is dressed with olive oil and a little salt.  This is an iconic Mediterranean dish for dietitians because it includes the healthy fats, the nuts, the vegetables and the whole grains, all done in a fresh, crisp manner. 

Variations on this salad are numerous throughout the region.  They use freekeh, wheat berries, farro, kamut, and more in dishes that are just like tabbouleh but with different spicing combinations and different fresh ingredients. But the preparation is very much the same.  Some western cooks have a play on this method that uses wild rice and barley as whole grains, and all to the same good effect.  Investigate grain salads, and adding a whole grains and a vegetable to the plate is easy than you might think.

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