Summer Whole Grain and Sweet Corn Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette.  Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

As I write this, the dog days of summer have finally arrived in vacationland. To help beat the heat of mealtime prep – mainly by avoiding turning on my stove for every meal – one ingredient I always have in the fridge is precooked Maine-grown whole grains. In her second book, “Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes,” whole grains advocate Maria Speck writes that the easiest way to incorporate more grains into a busy life is to cook a large amount and store them, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Because they arrive in your kitchen with all or most of their kernels intact, whole grains take about 45 minutes to cook to tender – with just a hint of chewiness. But cooking 6 cups requires the same amount of time and energy as cooking 2 cups, so there’s no downside to making a big batch.

Following Speck’s advice, I soak the grains for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in cold water and then simmer them over medium heat in lightly salted water until they are just a tad too chewy. I drain the water, return the kernels to the pot, cover it, and let them steam about five minutes more. Call me Goldilocks if you must, but I like my whole grains neither too soft, nor too tough, but just right. These last minutes of steaming produces the perfect texture. I transfer the cooked grains to the black Pyrex bowl I got at my wedding shower, cool them to room temperature, and then store them, covered, in the fridge.

There are plenty of whole Maine grains to be had from Maine Grains, the Skowhegan-based company working to bring local grain production and milling back to the Northeast. You can buy them online at the company’s site, at most health food stores, and at some grocery stores in Maine.

One week, I might have whole wheatberries, which are whole wheat kernels that resemble brown rice. For a twist, I’ll boil rye berries or spelt berries. Rye berries, which contain less gluten than wheatberries, are the nuttiest of the bunch and offer hints of both sourness and sweetness.

The next week, pearled farro might occupy that space. Or, if I’m feeling adventurous, pearled Black Nile barley. Pearled grains have had some of their husks removed. They cook faster and are less chewy, and when cooked look like the flesh popped out of its skin.

These whole grains can all build cool summer salads because they’re study enough to handle bold salad dressings, yet delicate enough to taste delicious with just a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.


The grains offer the most flavor if you let them soak up some of the dressing. So, I combine the grains (about 1/2 cup per person is a 150-calorie portion) and the dressing in the bottom of the bowl to sit while I slice and dice the remainder of the salad’s ingredients, which are best cut small enough to fit on a spoon with some of the grains.

Cooked, undressed rye berries from Maine Grains in Skowhegan can form the basis of many an excellent summer salad. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

Summer Whole Grain and Sweet Corn Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

Serves 4

2 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
1 whole tomato, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 cups cooked whole grains
1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup torn parsley leaves
1/4 cup sliced scallion tops

Remove the kernels from the corn cobs and set the kernels aside. Working with 1 cob at a time, hold the cob over a bowl and use the top, blunt side of a chef’s knife to scrape the corn milk from the cob. Repeat with the remaining cob. Either compost the cobs or use them to make corn stock.

Over the same bowl, use a box grater to grate the pulp from the tomato halves into the corn milk. Compost the tomato skins. Whisk olive oil, vinegar and grated garlic into the dressing. Add the grains and beans and toss to coat. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the grape or cherry tomatoes in half. Add them and the reserved corn kernels to the salad. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley and scallions just before serving.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the former editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at:

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