Build-Your-Own Grain Salad

This is the kind of use-what-you’ve-got approach to cooking that we love best. Start with some cooked grain or pasta — and then build a main-dish salad from whatever ingredients you have on hand. You’ve got grapes but no dried fruit? Use them. Broccoli leftover from last night’s dinner? Toss it in. The only rule is to taste as you go so you’ll learn what you like.

Hands-on time: 30   |    Total time: 30   |    Makes: 5 Servings


Cutting board
Sharp knife (adult needed)
Measuring cup
Large bowl
Mixing spoon


2 cup cooked grain or pasta (brown rice, barley, farro, quinoa, bulgar wheat, whole-wheat orzo)
1⁄4 cup dressing (herby vinaigrette or your favorite vinaigrette or a mix of oil and vinegar) or any herb pesto
2 cup vegetables (any combination of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini, or green beans, corn, peas, or canned peas)
1⁄2 cup protein (diced mozzarella, cheddar, or monterey jack cheese, or leftover diced cooked chicken, meat, fish, or tofu)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley, chives, cilantro, or a combination)
1⁄4 cup lightly toasted seeds or nuts
1⁄4 cup dried fruit (raisins, currants, or cherries or chopped dried apricots, prunes, dates, or figs)


 Wash your hands with soap and water, then gather all your equipment and ingredients and put them on a counter.

  1. Put all the ingredients in the bowl and stir to combine. Taste and add more dressing or a pinch of salt if the flavor needs a boost.
  2.  Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.