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We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: We're fighting salad-related misunderstandings, one dinner at a time.
It is not new information that cheese and wine get better with time. But salad? No, not salad: Salad collapses under the weight of dressing, the stale air of Tupperware containers, and the arctic temperatures in the back of the refrigerator. Salad needs pampering; salad needs immediate attention.
This dinner is fighting that misconception with two salads that err on the side of starchy and rely on vegetables that exist to be bathed in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Easy to make ahead of time and happy to chill out in the fridge as you go about your life, these salads are lower-maintenance than you assumed.
Tonight, rethink your salad.
1 bunch basil
1 medium cucumber
3 fresh, ripe tomatoes, divided
Juice of half a lemon
Half a loaf of good, crusty bread (ideally day-old)
1/2 cup dried pearl barley
3 ears corn, shucked
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
1 bunch chives
We bet you already have garlic, olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper, and white wine vinegar. If not, add those to the list, too.
1. Finely chop most of the basil (saving a handful), then use the flat side of a knife or a mortar and pestle to bash it with 1 or 2 garlic cloves and a fat pinch of salt to form a green paste.
2. Next, dice the cucumber and two of the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces and toss them with the basil-garlic paste, lots of olive oil, and the lemon juice. Let this sit in the fridge for at least a half an hour. (You can also make this in the morning and pull it out for dinner.)
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F. Tear the bread into uneven cubes and toss with olive oil. Toast the bread cubes on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, then let them cool.
4. In a large stock pot, boil the barley according to the package instructions. Parboil the corn with the barley for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the corn from the pot, brush it with olive oil, and grill the cobs on all sides until grill marks appear.
5. While the corn grills, halve the grape tomatoes and rinse and dry the beans. When the corn is finished, cut off the kernels, collect any "milk" that comes from the cutting process, and then use a knife to scrape the remaining milk from the clean cobs.
6. Cut the last tomato in half and grate it with a box grater over a wide bowl; after you've collected the juice and pulp, discard the skins. Mince a large garlic clove and smash it with a pinch of salt until it becomes a paste. Add the paste to the tomato mixture, then add a pinch of salt, crushed red pepper to taste, 1 1/2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar, and the corn milk. Whisk in 1/4 cup of olive oil slowly, creating an emulsion. If you are making this ahead of time, add another 1/4 cup of olive oil and save half of the vinaigrette; you can use this to freshen the salad immediately before serving.
7. Slice the rest of the basil into ribbons and thinly slice the chives. Then, combine the fresh herbs with the barley, grape tomatoes, corn, and beans and dress everything with the tomato vinaigrette. Then, remove the tomato-cucumber salad from the fridge and toss the vegetables with the croutons. Dress the salad with the juice that’s sitting at the bottom of the vegetable bowl, and eat with a large helping of the corn salad.
Photos by Eric Moran and James Ransom