food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

greens and grain saladIs it a bit chilly where you are? Have you pulled on a sweater yet? Here in Scotland the cautious flirtation with Autumn has ceased:  we are now in a committed relationship. 

fresh peasIn truth, it has only today seemed properly autumnal. Sure, the leaves have been doing a Tom Daley from the old oak, and the apple tree is heavily burdened with fruit I really should be picking. But this is the first day that wind, gray and cold (and just this minute, rain) have conjoined since, oh, June. So no complaints. But, despite making soup earlier in the week (posting soon), somehow I can’t let go of salads just yet.

Today’s salad is one of several variations on a theme that I have been making recently. They consist largely of bits found in the fridge and cut from the garden, as well as store cupboard staples, like couscous, quinoa and seeds. It has been an unexpected treat for me, considering the reason for concocting them.

My Miss R, resident musicologist to this blog, has been unwell and off school this week. It’s nothing serious, but she has been feeling pretty rubbish. We knew it wasn’t serious when she began ringing a metaphorical bell for supplies of food and drink. So, me being me, I have obliged not with chicken noodle soup or crustless sandwiches, but with twice-daily infusions of turmeric milk, smoothies (this and this) and cobbled together salads. I bet she wishes she was sick at someone else’s house!

Normally if it is just me at home I will heat some soup, or devour an unseemly pile of crispbreads with hummus. I do make salads too, but usually something exceedingly low effort, especially if I am making food for my cancer nutrition classes. Happily today’s salad is very low effort. More happily that it tastes of big effort. Well as big an effort as 10 minutes allows 😀

You will note that I have used couscous. When I tweeted a pic, Monica at smarterfitter commented that she wanted to try it with quinoa. I told her that quinoa would normally be my first choice, but Miss R and I wanted to eat asap. Ten minutes versus 20, plus cooling time. No contest. I used wholemeal couscous, which is healthy, just not as healthy as quinoa. But either or. Indeed, use any cooked grain – teff, amaranth, wild rice – you like (here is a sponsored macronutrient comparison chart). Heck, use potatoes. And as for the pesto, I have a ton of sorrel growing old and lanky in the garden, so in it went. Its assertive lemony flavour is perfect here, but equally assertive wild rocket (arugula) or traditional basil would be great too. If your crop is a bit woody stemmed, rip these away. Otherwise  chuck it all in, stems and leaves – no waste!

Have you packed away the flip flops, or are you still basking in a late-summer glow? What transitional recipes are you making now?

greens and grain saladGreens and Grain Salad with Sorrel and Sunflower Seed Pesto

Last year: Baked Marinara-stuffed Risotto Balls

Two years ago: Good For You Granola

Miss R’s track of the week: Sam Smith’s Nirvana

I’ve used couscous here because I fancied it, but this would obviously be good with quinoa (especially the brown kind), chewy wheatberries, or smoky, toothsome freekah. Any good wholegrains, really. As for the vegetables, I’ve kept the palette/palate green but feel free to go technicolour. I’m thinking a riot of colour – reds, oranges, purples and green. Mmm, next time!

185g (1 cup) uncooked couscous – wholegrain preferred

1 tsp dried mint

½ tsp salt or some vegetable stock powder (the latter is what I used)

2 tsp olive oil + extra for drizzling

Double handful trimmed tenderstem broccoli/broccolini, sliced

Cupped handful chopped cucumber, sliced in quarters (deseeded as necessary)

100g (1/2 cup) freshly shelled baby peas OR frozen baby peas

3 spring onion/scallions, trimmed and white parts sliced

3 tbsp Sorrel and Sunflower Seed Pesto (see below)

Freshly ground pepper

Freshly squeezed lemon juice – to taste (I used half a small lemon)

1. To make up the couscous, tip the dry couscous into a wide shallow bowl, along with the dried mint, salt and oil. Cover with the same volume of just boiled water; cover and leave to absorb for 5 minutes, or as packet directs (absorption rate does vary). If you are using wholegrain couscous the method is the same. Uncover and fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Leave to cool a bit.

2. To cook the broccoli and peas (or not, if you like) use your preferred method, keeping plenty of crunch in the broccoli. I tend to steam the broccoli in a sieve that fits over a pan of simmering water, to which I have added the peas. Drain and rinse briefly in cold water (I run them under the tap).

Decant the cooked grains into a serving bowl and, with a fork, stir through the sorrel and sunflower seed pesto and lemon juice, followed by the still-warm cooked broccoli, peas, cucumber and spring onions. Drizzle over some extra oil if you like, a healthy squeeze of lemon and grind over fresh pepper.sorrel and pumpkin seed pesto

Sorrel and Sunflower Seed Pesto

This is a quick, cheese-less, pesto. Use wild rocket, wild garlic, oregano, basil or parsley if you like.

Double handful of fresh sorrel leaves

2 small cloves garlic or one big one, smashed and peeled

Handful of shelled, raw sunflower seeds – toast for a minute in a dry pan

Good pinch of salt

Extra virgin olive oil – about 2 tbsp

It is traditional to make pesto in a pestle and mortar – pesto and pestle have the same Latin root. But for ease, and because I only have small mortar, I use the small bowl of my food processor.

Process all ingredients to a slightly nubbly paste, adding more oil as needed. I like the pesto on the dry side but add more oil as you like, or even some lemon-spiked water. If you wish to add hard Italian cheese, finely grate with a Microplane, or similar, and stir in. To store, pop into a clean jar and cover with a thin film of oil; keeps for a week in the fridge. The pesto also freezes well, either in a jar or in an ice cube tray. Makes one small jam jar’s worth.

overgrown sorrel

overgrown sorrel

Using up the pesto:

*Stirred into risotto

*As a bruschetta topping, with chopped tomatoes and rocket leaves

*Or on pizza (see this simple one from Tinned Tomatoes)

*With cooked trofie (a type of pasta), potatoes and green beans

*In a roasted vegetable salad, such as my Roasted Nicoise Salad with Burrata

*Dolloped in vegetable soup – like minestrone, my Courgette, Pea and Pesto soup, or even something plain that needs a lift

*Stuffed into a chicken breast, then baked (see this recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

*Mixed with mayonnaise and used as a sandwich spread with avocadoes, lettuce, tomato and grilled peppers

Here’s some other ways: 

*15 Ways To Use Up Pesto from zerowaste.com

*10 Ways To Use Pesto (Besides Pasta!) from thekitchn

*loads of ideas on busycooks.about.com

I’m sending this recipe(s) to a number of challenges and roundups. First off I am winging this to Four Seasons Food. The season (in this hemisphere!) is Autumn, and the theme is Sliding Into Autumn. All of the fresh ingredients are tail-end of summer/beginning of autumn, so this should fit the remit. This roundup is hosted alternately between Louisa at Chez Foti and Anneli of Delicieux.

I am also, once again, sending over to the Healthy Diet – Healthy Lunch Box Recipes collection as this would be a healthy and robustly portable salad for brownbagging. The monthly collection of healthy recipes is the brainchild of Priya over at Priya’s Versatile Recipes, and hosted this month by Sowmya, the author of Nivedhanam.

As I used sorrel from the garden and  ‘dog-ends’ of vegetables that I had (and you may too), as well as storecupboard bits, I think my recipe qualifies for Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All’s jointly-run Credit Crunch Munch. This month the roundup is being curated by Elizabeth’s Kitchen…And here is a new one for me, Sweet Wednesday Link Party, hosted at My Sweet Mission. All kinds of posts are welcome, including crafts and household tips. Eclectic!

Lastly, the ever-gracious Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv hosts the weekly Made With Love Mondays. His only stipulation is that entries be homemade: not always spankingly waist-conscious (some LUSH cakes), but with a good pedigree guaranteed!

flowers and rocket from kath's garden

flowers and rocket from kath’s garden

low-hanging apples - best get picking

low-hanging apples – best get picking

last of the lilac

last of the buddleia

Sweet Wednesday Link Party Button (150)

30 thoughts on “Greens and Grain Salad with Sorrel and Sunflower Seed Pesto

  1. The minute I saw “sorrel” in the title my mouth started to water…then when I saw “sorrel and sunflower seed pesto” I thought “yes!”
    I was introduced to sorrel at my local farmers market and I seriously can’t get enough. The lemon-y taste is such a nice surprise for my mouth! I really need to grow some next year.
    Can’t wait to try this pesto! Thanks Kellie!

  2. mewinebrenner says:

    It’s definitely getting close to Autumn here on the East coast of the US. And I’m ready! I love love love sorrel, but i think the season is almost over here! I love the bright tart flavor it has!

    1. Mine is all long and not fit for anything but pesto, risotto and soup, so if you have any growing it will be perfect. Not sure if it would be in farmer’s markets though. If you don’t grow it already, it is a great perennial herb that even I can’t kill! Highly recommended

  3. FoodisMyZen says:

    I have a thistle allergy. Is there something else I could use instead of Sunflower seeds?
    Maybe Pine nuts?

    1. Absolutely! I just happened to have loads of sunflower seeds (nice and cheap too) but the natural creaminess of pine nuts is lovely in any pesto. Thanks for dropping by

  4. I hope your daughter starts to feel better soon and I honestly have never been able to eat salads when I’m sick. I can’t explain it… I love the sound of this pesto, tho – I’m sure the flavor notes are very distinct from a traditional basil/pine nut pesto… As for transitional food, I think I’ve just straight to fall with a couple of apple pies 😉

  5. Penniless Veggie says:

    I’ve been slow to really make use of my sorrel; wrongly thinking it a spinach alternative the sourness has actually floored me in the past, but as I’ve also found it’s definitely a great early autumn ingredient in pesto after other herbs like basil and parsley have begun to die back. As for wholemeal couscous, it’s gorgeous in my humble, much yummier than the white kind, Oh and I had no idea you could get wholegrain quinoa!!! 🙂

    1. Yes it is like a whole grain, even though of course it is a seed. The black and red varieties are even tastier than the cream coloured variety imo. I love the colour mixes you can get now. So pretty to eat as well as tastes fab

  6. Jacqueline says:

    Thanks for linking to me Kellie. I love this salad and it has inspired me to try something similar. I haven’t let go of salads either and just posted a noodle salad.

  7. zolachiro says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Some food for thought 😉 The salad looks great, I’m going to try it myself tomorrow.

  8. I do have sorrel growing at the allotment so this could be perfect. It’s lemony flavour is just heaven but don’t think I have ever used it in pesto before, good idea! The colours here remind me that we shortly won’t be seeing greens but russets. I am posting a farewell to summer soup next week with all the vividness of green that you have used so beautifully here 🙂

    1. I look forward to seeing your soup next week 🙂 I pinned your chickpea and tomato one

  9. narf77 says:

    Another delicious salad to span the changing of the seasons. Cheers for sharing 🙂

  10. Sally says:

    Funnily enough, the answer is NO to your first question! I fancy getting my spoon stuck into that though!

  11. Kellie, I feel sad that you are now into the cooler months, but this is good for us here in Australia, as we head into Spring with vengeance! I’ve not tried sorrel, at least I don’t think so. Your recipe sounds lovely!

    1. Sorrel is one of the first herbs to appear and one of the last to leave. I do tend to neglect mine but when I remember to use it I’m always glad I did. It’s nothing complex but its sharp tang is a great foil for many rich ingredients and other herbs. Wild sorrel is still popping up young and tender in nearby meadows and edge-of-woods. Do try some!

  12. Monica says:

    And now I am obsessed with the idea of sunflower seed pesto. I have a load of parsley at the moment. I know how I’m going to use it! Thanks for the mention. 🙂

  13. Kalyn says:

    What a fun variation on pesto. I love sorrel so I’m pretty sure I would like it! And thanks for the mention of my pesto-filled chicken breasts, always appreciated.

  14. Deena Kakaya says:

    Really glad to see beautiful green and herby dishes like this in September, glad I’m not alone! X

  15. Amanda says:

    Such a beautiful post. In New York it feels like autumn now too. Time to put away the summer dresses and sunflowers and pull out the boots and start and pumpkin picking.

    1. We don’t have a tradition of growing pumpkins here in the UK. The visit to a pumpkin patch is something I miss from my childhood. Such a wholesome tradition

  16. Sunflower seed pesto? I love this idea, great for those with nut allergies! This sounds fabulous.

    1. And cheaper than pine nuts too!

  17. annelifaiers says:

    What a gorgeous green healthy salad. Wonderful ingredients and great textures. This is healthy eating at it’s finest! I love all your suggestions on how to use up that delicious pesto too, what great added info. Thanks so much for this lovely entry into Four Seasons Food x

  18. Love the flowers and rocket from Kath’s garden-gorgeous-and, you’ve done it again with this yummy, healthy salad! Hope your MIss R feels better soon, and I’d love a bit {just a bit!} of your cooler weather sent my way 🙂

  19. Sowmya says:

    love the pictures!!! and the pesto is so flavorful and simple!!! Thanks for linking it to my event!! Looking for more yummy recipes!!

    Sowmya

  20. Cooksister says:

    Oh wow, wow, wow! That looks utterly wonderful – the kind of salad I’d make for myself for a packed lunch every day (you kniow, in the fantasy world where I am organised enough to pack a lunch…!) Definitely going to try that. I am sure hubby was growing some sorrell but it appears to have fallen victim to slugs 😦

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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