Caraway Salmon with Rye Berry-and-Beet SaladMy charmed life is one filled with so many whole-grain options. Thousands of recipes swirl around my world, daring me to try amaranth and barley, buckwheat and millet, quinoa and rye, sorghum and teff, farro and bulgur, spelt and freekeh. See what I mean? I’m a junkie. The sales pitch is one we’ve heard before, over and over again: They’re good for you and taste great! This ancient-grain lifestyle is not-at-all precious, however. Once you source these grains (too easy in my world), they’re the simplest thing to cook. Can you boil water?

One such recipe dare comes from the February 2015 issue of Food & Wine. The “Caraway Salmon with Rye Berry-and-Beet Salad” lists a bunch of favorites -- Greek yogurt and horseradish and beets and salmon -- and sits them atop a heap of rye berries. I’ve sung this love song before: the celebration of texture with a grain such as this. The rye berries look a bit like freekeh, but cook firmer. Hearty and wonderful.

Set aside an hour to roast the fresh beets, but thrill in their sweetness. Blanching the beet greens and stems turns this into a full-on party. Vibrant and flavorful.

This recipe is a clever combo of four elements: hearty grain + sweet beets + luscious salmon + tangy yogurt. Basting the salmon with caraway butter is a fine trick: united with the grain we’ve got rye bread. Nice stuff. You’ll get it.

Beets (1 bunch) = $2.17
Salmon Fillets (4) = $11.39

PREP TIME: beets and rye cook for an hour, while sauce is mixed, greens are blanched, and salmon is seared
rye bread with hearty, sweet, and tangy

Next time, I’ll tackle some tricky exercises. I want to cook the “Lamb Meatloaf with Shiitakes, Currants & Caramelized Onions” (where I’ll swap in goat meat), from Three Many Cooks, and the “Root Vegetable Gratin,” from the March/April 2015 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), where I’ll deal with mandoline anxiety. Come back to my site next week, to see it all.

Root Vegetable Gratin
Cook’s Illustrated, March/April 2015
Serves 6 to 8

1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 1/4 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
2 lbs. large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/8 inch thick
1 large celery root (1 lb.), peeled, quartered, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 lb. rutabaga, peeled, quartered, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Whisk 1 Tbsp. water, mustard, flour, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt in medium bowl until smooth. Add wine, cream, and remaining 1 1/2 cups water; whisk to combine. Combine onion, thyme, garlic, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in second bowl.

Layer half of potatoes in prepared dish, arranging so they form even thickness. Sprinkle half of onion mixture evenly over potatoes. Arrange celery root and rutabaga slices in even layer over onions. Sprinkle remaining onion mixture over celery root and rutabaga. Layer remaining potatoes over onions. Slowly pour water mixture over vegetables. Using rubber spatula, gently press down on vegetables to create even, compact layer. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until knife inserted into center of gratin meets no resistance, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

While gratin bakes, combine panko, Parmesan, and butter in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove gratin from oven and sprinkle evenly with panko mixture. Continue to bake until panko is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Remove gratin from oven and let stand for 25 minutes. Serve.