July 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

Simply the Best

Grains are summer salads' heroes

Peaches, mozzarella and arugula join buckwheat and quinoa for a healthy meal. (Jonathan Gregson)

I have always been a potato lover. Served as a side to all manner of protein from eggs to beef, breakfast to dinner, the potato is perfect in my book. It wasn’t until I was much older that I appreciated what grains could bring to the table and to the diet. Nutritional benefits aside, you can dress them up with all manner of ingredients and they are as good as a snack or a salad as they are in a dessert.

After the potato, rice was the sec­ond starchy side choice at my table. Boiled white rice had a boring quality, but fried rice and nutty brown rice added depth and character to a meal. And in addition to a morning bowl of oatmeal, grains such as bul­gur, barley, polenta and grits made an occasional appearance, while fre­ekah, chia seeds and farro either we­ren’t available or even considered.

Now that we are becoming more educated about our diets and the importance of a wholesome diet, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to grains and how to make them.

In “Amazing Grains,” Singapore author Ghillie James focuses on 19 different grains and their diverse and delightful tastes and textures. Not that I will ever push the potato off the plate, but I am enjoying more grains these days, and James’ recipes showcase these unsung heroes of the pantry.

In particular, I love the supergrain combination of buckwheat and quinoa in this salad featuring crispy proscuitto, fresh mozzarella, arugula and peaches. The salad is delicious on its own, but also makes a terrific accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish. I just don’t know how I’m going to break it to the potato.

Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Arugula and Peach Salad with Buckwheat and Quinoa

Choose alternative grains such as wheat berries, couscous or barley if you like. Recipe from “Amazing Grains” by Ghillie James

1 ½ cups stock or water
¼ cup buckwheat, rinsed
¼ cup quinoa, rinsed
3 ½ ounces green beans or sugar snaps, cut into ¾-inch pieces
4 slices of very thinly sliced prosciutto
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 peaches, cut into chunks
2 ½ cups arugula, torn
1 ¼ cup mozzarella, drained and torn
Handful of mint leaves, torn

Heat the stock or water in a pan then add the rinsed buckwheat and quinoa. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, adding the green beans for the final 1-2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the vegetables. Drain thoroughly and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, dry-fry (without oil) the prosciutto slices over high heat for a minute or so until they brown and begin to look crisp (the prosciutto will turn completely crispy once it has cooled). Keep to one side on a plate.

Stir the lemon juice, olive oil, and some salt and pepper together in a bowl with the grains. Add the peaches, arugula, mozzarella, mint and half the prosciutto, roughly torn, and toss together. Pile onto a platter and top with the remaining crispy prosciutto. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Per serving: 668 calories; 39 g fat (18 g saturated fat; 53 percent calories from fat); 45 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 87 mg cholesterol; 873 mg sodium; 30 g protein; 6 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com