These 2 Secret Ingredients Let You Make A Healthy Dinner-Party-Worthy Meal In 10 Minutes Flat

Photo: Nadine Greeff

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There's something magical about summer's stone fruit season. I think it lies in its temporality: In a world where we can easily get bananas year-round and seasonality is aspirational (I know I'm supposed to eat with the seasons, but how can I tell what's in season when my grocery store stock never changes?), stone fruit remains firmly entrenched in the warm months of the year. While you might be able to find a nectarine at a grocery store in December, it wouldn't be good—and eating it would just feel wrong. Stone fruit is sticky juice running down your fingers in the hot sun. It's bursting with an almost aggressive sweetness (at renowned restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, they often offer a single, perfect peach as a dessert option). It's farmers markets and block parties and the smell of BBQ and fresh-cut grass wafting through the air. It's summer.

This grain salad is designed to capture the effortlessness that's key to the waning days of the season, and it does so with the use of two pantry staples that, kept on hand and employed judiciously, will elevate even the simplest food to dinner-party-worthy fare. The first is harissa, a spicy North African condiment that's becoming increasingly common as laissez-faire fusion food grows in popularity. Every recipe differs slightly, but it's always a bit spicy, piquant, and a little savory. It's also what I call a "meal maker": Rub it on some plain chicken or veg before roasting, and bam—you've got a meal. Water it down with a bit of olive oil, and bam—a superstar salad. Here, it's used as a dressing for your grain of choice, tying together the fresh mint, the hearty pistachios, and the sweet fruit into a seamless meal.

The second secret ingredient is preserved lemon, another North African staple. They're simply fermented lemons, packed in a salty brine. While almost every dish can benefit from acid (it's a chef's secret: If your homecooked meal feels uninspiring, a hit of vinegar or citrus will often bring it to life), preserved lemons also bring in a salty, umami element that gives a can't-put-your-finger-on-it craveable complexity to the finished dish. You can find both preserved lemons and harissa in the international section of most grocery stores, or order them online (New York Shuk makes my favorite version). Preserved lemons are also really easy to make at home, although you do need to allow for fermentation time—this is a good recipe to try.

Stone Fruit Grain Salad Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked grain of choice (I used farro, but use a gluten-free option like quinoa if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon preserved lemon juice (can sub juice of 1 lemon)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup raw, shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups of sliced stone fruit of choice (I used pitted cherries and nectarines, but plums would be great, too)
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, stems removed

Method

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to boil. Add a generous amount of salt (a palmful or so), then add your grain of choice. Cook until done and drain, rinsing with cool water. Place in freezer or fridge to chill until slightly cooler than room temperature.
  2. Roughly chop pistachios. Toast in a dry pan over medium-low until just golden and fragrant.
  3. Toss grain with harissa, lemon, olive oil, and additional salt to taste. Toss in pistachios, stone fruit, and mint until well-distributed. Serve immediately, or keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Here are a few other pantry staples I always have on hand for easy weeknight meals.

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