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Another use for summer's sweet cherries: In a simple grain salad

Warm Brown Rice and Chickpea Salad With Cherries. Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post.

I'm never surprised at how much I love cherries. They're a summertime favorite, a member of my beloved stone-fruit family. But I tend to eat them out of hand, or perhaps as part of the morning trifecta of yogurt-fruit-granola. Or, of course, baked into a cobbler or pie.

Every now and again, though, I am surprised at just how good they are in a salad: alongside farro and pecans, say, or chopped spinach and goat cheese, where their firm texture either stands up well next to crunchy and chewy things or counterbalances soft ingredients. The salad possibilities can be very simple, too, because the cherries lend some of their juice to the whole affair, eliminating (much the way tomatoes do) the need for a constructed dressing.

It could hardly get much simpler than the brown rice salad I found in "Everyday Vegetarian," the new cookbook by the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House). The stars of the salad are quartered sweet cherries, mixed into a base of warm, precooked brown rice (from a package if you don't have any leftover) along with chickpeas, green onions, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. On top goes a little goat cheese.

Take it to work for lunch, pack it for a picnic side dish or eat it as a light supper, made heartier with the addition of roast vegetables or another (green) salad on the side. This is one of those dishes that's just as flexible in the eating as it is in the making.

Warm Brown Rice and Chickpea Salad With Cherries

4 servings, Healthy

If you can't find fresh cherries, use dried instead: Add 2 tablespoons boiling water to 1/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries, let them stand for 10 minutes, then drain and chop them.

If you don't want to cook your own brown rice, look for pouches of precooked brown rice, such as Uncle Ben's brand, or cooked/frozen brown rice.

Adapted from "Everyday Vegetarian" by the editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, 2017).

Ingredients

2 cups cooked brown rice, warmed (see headnote)

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fresh basil leaves

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (may substitute white wine or sherry vinegar)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

32 fresh cherries (about 9 ounces), pitted and quartered (see headnote)

1 3/4 cups home-cooked or no-salt-added canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (from one 15-ounce can)

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled or in pinches (about 1/2 cup)

Steps

Combine the brown rice, scallions, basil, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, cherries and chickpeas in a mixing bowl, stirring to incorporate. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, as needed.

Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each evenly with the goat cheese, and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving: 400 calories, 12 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar

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