Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

I love Mediterranean food and while I am an omnivore, I don’t actually eat a lot of meat and frequently make vegan meals or side dishes that serve as a great left-over lunch the next day. I have never met a legume or grain that I didn’t like and I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, especially those that use a lot of herbs.

I don’t remember how I first heard about the grain freekeh, but the name Market grains Israelintrigued me enough to learn a bit more about it and to find out where I could buy it. I already loved faro and wheat berries, so why not freekeh? As it turns out, freekeh is roasted green wheat. It has a wonderful nutty flavor and stands up well to salads or soups. It cooks up in about 35 minutes. I purchase mine through Nuts.com, a wonderful source for dried fruits, grains, spices and of course – nuts.

 

The following salad is adapted from one I found from Martha Rose Shulman. I have been making her vegetarian recipes for over 25 years and they have never failed me. While the beautiful fresh herbs may lose a little color by the second or third day, the flavor is just as wonderful. That assumes that you will actually have any left-overs. It’s that good!

Freekeh, Chickpea and Herb Salad

Yield: 6 servings as a side

Ingredients

  • 1 cup freekeh
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery, plus 3 tablespoons chopped leaves
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • juice of 3 lemons – more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, more to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tablespoons EVOO

Preparation

  1. Heat a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and add freekeh. Toast in the dry pan, shaking pan or stirring, until freekeh becomes fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 cups water and salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and uncover. Place a clean dish towel over the pot and return lid. Let sit at least 10 minutes. Uncover and allow freekeh to cool another 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine freekeh, chopped herbs, celery, scallions and chickpeas and toss together. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, cumin, garlic, salt and olive oil; toss with salad. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired. Serve right away or let sit for up to 1 hour before serving.
  • Advance preparation: The salad is best served within a few hours of tossing with the dressing, when the herbs are their brightest, but it will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. The cooked freekeh will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.

It’s sooooooooooo hot outside! What’s for dinner?

The last thing I really want when it is hot and humid out is a heavy dinner. I don’t want to cook it and I certainly don’t want to eat it. My husband and I love a beautiful salad with some crusty bread and a lovely rose or crisp white wine. If there is even the slightest breeze, we might just take our dinner outside to our terrace to watch the sun set and those poor devils stuck on the “L” still on their way home. Here is my take on a caprese salad.Caprese

There is no real recipe but here’s what goes in it.

On a bed of arugula (I just picked some up at the farmer’s market and I had forgotten how wonderfully peppery good arugula really is!) I slice heirloom tomatoes (there was such wonderful produce at the farmer’s market – who needs to cook?). Before I add anything else, I drizzle some Meyer Lemon infused EVOO (or just good EVOO) on top with a sprinkle of Kosher salt and a few cracks of fresh black pepper). If you have a fruity vinegar (I am currently crazy about fig vinegar that Frances sent me as a gift) or a light Sherry vinegar, drizzle that on top. I then add some thinly sliced Seedless English Cucumber or the little Persian Cucumbers, some black oil-cured or Kalamata olives (any good olive of choice works, but these are particularly good), thinly sliced onions (Vidalia or Red onion are my favorites). I give this a light splash of the EVOO and Vinegar, salt and pepper. I then top it with slices of a good fresh mozzarella (Buffalo if it is in your budget but Bel Gioioso is fine) and lots of fresh basil leaves. I finally got a big plant (yes, at the farmer’s market) since I go through so much basil and the stuff you buy in the packages NEVER lasts. A little more, salt, pepper, EVOO and vinegar. Eat it with your crusty bread and soak up every bit of goodness in the dressing with the sliced, warm bread (oops, I guess you would use your oven here) or just fresh bread (no oven!) Wash it all down with a lovely rose or crispy white. If you are feeling very ambitious, you could slice some melon for dessert. Delicious and no oven was harmed in the preparation!