The Best Way To Use Up Leftover Grains Is A Warm Salad

A main meal usually doesn't feel complete without some kind of starch, whether it be pasta, potatoes, or grains. In this last instance, if you find yourself with leftovers, though, it's best to finish them within just a few days. The USDA notes that leftover rice and other types of grains can be dangerous due to the Bacillus cereus spores they host, so it's not recommended to keep them in the refrigerator for more than four days, max. What you can do, however, is use them up right away by making a warm salad for your next day's lunch.

If the terms "warm" and "salad" don't seem as if they belong in the same sentence without the addition of the word "yuck," this may be because you're envisioning the typical lettuce-based salad. While warm salads do include vegetables, usually lettuce is not among them. Instead, a warm salad may consist of a scoop of grain mixed with cooked vegetables such as sauteed onions or mushrooms (the latter make for a surprising, yet delicious, salad ingredient), sweet potatoes, cauliflower, or carrots along with other ingredients like nuts and cheese and of course, a tasty, tangy dressing to tie everything together.

All kinds of grains can be used to make warm salads

Many types of cooked grains lend themselves well to saladification, at least ones where the grains are discrete like cooked rice rather than cooked together into porridge as is the case with oatmeal. Some of the recommended grains include barley, bulgur, farro, quinoa, and good old rice (white, brown, or any other kind you have in the fridge).

If you're making your salad with leftover grain straight from the fridge, it's best to warm it up first (a minute in the microwave under a damp paper towel ought to do the trick), then mix it with the dressing so the grains can better absorb the flavor. Warm up the other vegetables you'll be using, unless you're going for wilted greens like spinach as the heat from the grain might be all they'll need. You might also like to add some protein such as cooked chicken or salmon (leftovers work here, too), and if so, this would also benefit from a short spin in the microwave to better fit in with the other salad elements. Sprinkle your salad with crumbled or shredded cheese if you like, and maybe add some sliced almonds or dried cranberries for extra texture and visual appeal. Who knew leftover grains could dress up so nicely? The best part about this salad, though, is it's not only pretty to look at but pretty tasty and pretty nutritious, as well.