When I find something that will change your life – FOREVER – I must share. I’m not such a fan of pre-seasoned packages, like those dried bean soup mixes loaded with some heavy doses of sodium, but I recently stumbled across this beauty at Trader Joe’s. It’s simply called Harvest Grains Blend and can quickly become the rock star of a wonderful fall Harvest Grains Salad. I wanted to take issue with the fact that orzo is a pasta and not technically a grain, but I guess pasta started as a grain, right? There’s really no reason to get cranky, because this is a great Mama’s helper. It has Israeli couscous (the jumbo pearl size), three colors of orzo (plain, red pepper and spinach), split baby garbanzo beans (so cute), and red quinoa. The beauty of the pre-package is that it takes the guesswork out of cooking. You can easily make your own blend, or even just use one single grain/pasta. But if you are mixing, you need to pay attention to cooking times so you don’t, for example, throw couscous and wild rice into the same pot at the same time. Cooking time here is a mere ten minutes.
Israeli couscous is larger than standard coucous and is slightly chewy and comes in a variety of flavors. Shown here is a tri-color blend, including unflavored, spinach and tomato. The pasta in the center is orzo.
I hope you are taking advantage of the last of the season’s juicy tomatoes. I have detailed before how you can simply split them, put them cut side up on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, and slow roast them to concentrate the flavors and dehydrate the liquid. From there, once cooled, they are easy to Ziploc and freeze. I use them all winter in frittatas, cornbreads, pastas, soups and stews, on pizzas, focaccia, and in salads. They are a sweet treat come February, and now is the time to make it happen!
Tomatoes are a natural BFF to blue cheeses. While blue can be made with cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk, all varieties share a common production technique which involves ripening them using cultures of the mold Penicillium. The green or blue veins are created during the aging process by spiking with stainless steel rods to aerate the cheese and encourage the mold’s growth. It’s not hard to see where the spikes went in on this hunk of Glacier Wildfire Blue. To learn more, check in with our friends at The Cheese Lady for great info on many cheeses, blue and beyond.
For this salad I chose Delft. It’s a buttery cow’s milk cheese with a clean finish – a bit sweet and not too salty. This cheese comes from the Netherlands and is so named for its resemblance to Delftware pottery. The blue veins and milky whiteness resemble the lovely pottery, as if broken and put back together.
A new twist on pasta or grain salad, this dish uses a Trader Joe’s pre-packaged combo and includes Israeli couscous, tri-color orzo, split baby garbanzos and red quinoa. While you can, oven dry some end-of-summer tomatoes and stash them in your freezer. They will add a nice flavor boost to salads like this, as well as pastas, soups, stews and anything else you might make this winter when the tomatoes in the store then will taste like cardboard.