The title of a summer entry, in Nigel Slater’s Notes From the Larder, A Kitchen Diary with Recipes, “sorting the wheat,” grabbed my attention and interest. The baker that I am feeds the indulgence in collecting all kinds of lesser-known wheat and grains. From time to time, it is imperative to clean out the pantry. I found a big bag of organic whole-grain cracked freekeh, ideal to make this Nigel Slater’s salad with a mixture of seasonal vegetables and herbs. The recipe calls for cracked wheat. Cracked freekeh is one kind of wheat. Close enough. Nigel Slater is the featured chef this week at IHCC. Guess what other of his dishes are brought to the table by other home cooks? Please visit IHCC for details.
Well, freekeh is wheat, but it’s an ancient grain that has been harvested when it’s still young and green, and then it gets roasted. The flavor is similar to bulgur wheat, but with a grassier note. It has been found that because freekeh is harvested when it’s young, the grain retains more protein, fiber and minerals than in mature wheat. If you compare the fiber content of freekeh to other grains, it blows them out of the water, with three times as much fiber as brown rice and twice as much fiber as quinoa. The cracked freekeh cooks up relatively quickly compared to many whole grains — in just 20 minutes. It can be used to substitute brown rice or barley in dishes like pilafs, risottos, tabboulehs and salads.
And as anyone who has ever been on a diet can tell you, the more fiber you eat, the fuller you feel and the easier it is to lose weight. What’s more, freekeh contains resistant starch, which is a type of carbohydrate that acts like a fiber and also helps to keep you feeling pleasantly satisfied longer.
Nigel also points out: “as a base for a salad, wheat can act as a way to ‘balance the books’ with more expensive ingredients such as tropical fruits and seafood.” I appreciate his considerations for real-life pocket-book concerns. There are always the unexpected spin on food and prose in his writing that make his cookbooks very very enjoyable to read. Back to the recipe, the healthful aspect of a wheat salad, especially using freekeh, is compelling enough to become my go-to dish.
This dish can be served as a side and it’s good as a main-course salad as well, as Nigel has suggested. After having several meals of barbecue, I was ready for a big salad as the main. Put everything in a trifle bowl for a more dress-up look. (Put the ingredients in a mason jar, you’ll have a picnic ready to go.) All the fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs were in clear sight. What I’ve changed were: added some beets and avocado to make a more substantial salad. I left out red chile since I don’t have any on hand.
Roasted beets were put in the bottom layer to prevent its juice from running over the rest of the salad. Layered on top were: cracked freekeh, Persian cucumbers, sliced radishes, ripe mangoes, ripe avocado, and heaps of mint, parsley and green onions. All the ingredients are fresh. The sweetness of ripe mango and the distinct minty scent are clear standouts in this salad. Moreover, nothing comes from a bottle or can. Splashes of lemon juice and olive oil finished this wholesome dish for a light, refreshing and sustaining meal, ideal for a hot summer day.
|Feel free to add or subtract. I Added beets, avocado and skipped the chile.|