Spring Brunch Salad w/ grains, salmon, fennel, and asparagus

A fun game we like to play around the Ops office is randomly selecting 3 stallholders and competing for the best dish. It has come up with some amazing ideas over time, and recently this little creation took the weekly prize. Spring screams salads and brunch screams it through a megaphone. Salads should be simple, refreshing and not too complex. The art of a great salad comes from achieving robust flavour and texture balance with minimal ingredients and minimal preparation. The crunch of the fennel and asparagus offset the delicate flakiness of the salmon, while the grains add body and earthy base flavours. You can also tart this up for dinner by subbing out the salmon and serving the salad alongside some roast white-fish or grilled meats, or you can dress it down for brekky by adding a soft poached egg and some buttered toast.

Read the recipe, cook it up and smash it in your face hole!

Featuring: 41 Degrees South Salmon, Grain Family grains, Thirlstane Garden herbs, Headlam Farm asparagus, and Laos Fresh Farm fennel

Pro-tip: In the same way as the potatoes, season the water in which you boil the lentils with thyme sprigs, garlic, and a bay leaf. Even a bit of lemon zest if you like! But be careful when adding salt to grains during boiling. Some legumes (most notably chickpeas) have a protein on the outside that congeals when it encounters salt, preventing it from hydrating and cooking properly. Also, rice, quinoa, and other legumes absorb water during cooking in a way that potatoes do not, so less salt is required in the water. Cooking all the grains separately seems tedious, but it really is the best way to ensure textures and flavours don’t become homogenous and flat. 

For the salad:

1 cup du-puy (French green) lentils, 1 piece of lemon zest, 1 clove of garlic, 1 sprig of thyme
½ tsp salt
½ cup red quinoa
½ cup white quinoa
½ cup brown rice
½ cup red rice
¼ cup shallot dressing (recipe in the blog)
3 sprigs of tarragon
¼ cup Italian Parsley
1 whole hot-smoked salmon
1 fennel bulb
1 bunch of asparagus

Strip the skin and bones from the salmon and flake the flesh into largish chunks.

Place the lentils, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, and salt in plenty of water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are al-dente. Apx 10-12 minutes. Careful! They can overcook. Drain and set aside.

Cook the other grains in the same manner, in separate pans.

Finely chop the parsley and tarragon (reserves about a tablespoon worth) and combine with all the cooked grains in a large mixing bowl.

If you have the skills, on a mandolin (or using your best sharpest knife) shave the fennel as thinly as possible.

Finely slice the asparagus stalks, and leave the heads intact.

Combine the fennel and asparagus with the other ingredients in the large mixing bowl and dress with the shallot dressing.

Serve up the salad into your serving bowls, and place some of the chunked salmon on the top

Finish with a flourish of EV olive oil and the reserved chopped herbs.

Sit back and bask in the adulation of your adoring guests.

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