We’ve been making grain salads for a couple of summers now, and we’re converts. Yes, grain salads are the new potato salad. And, like potato salads, they are endlessly adaptable. Make grains. Make vegetables. Toss with herbs, nuts or seeds. Dress. Done.
Our first grain salad of this season starts with baby zucchini and snap peas, since these are the first vegetables to start appearing at the farmers markets. We like mint right now, but basil would do nicely. So would parsley.
We’ve recently started buying freekeh, roasted spelt berries, from the Rockland Farm Alliance’s stand at the Nyack Farmers Market. It’s grown by Cayuga Pure Organics, which is featured in Dan Barber’s new book, “The Third Plate.” (In the book, Dan compares whole-farm eating to nose-to-tail eating, saying we need to work grains like freekeh into our everyday cooking. That supports the entire ecology of the farm and helps it to be succesful. But that’s another post.)
Also, we take this recipe easy. We’ll grill the zucchini one night. Make the snap peas the next night. Make the pickles another day. Then pull it all together at the end.
So here’s the recipe. May you make it often, and make it your own.
- 1/2 cup pickled onions (recipe below)
- 4 small yellow zucchini
- 4 small green zucchini
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 cups sugar snap peas
- 2 cups wheat berries or freekeh
- 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon dill fronds
- 1 tablespoon lemon olive oil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons pickle juice from onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
- First, make the pickled onions. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Grill the zucchini: Prepare a grill. Slice zucchini into rounds. Place on a grill pan resting on top of a sheet pan. Drizzle olive oil on top and generously salt and pepper. Toss the zucchini together with the oil with your hands. Zest and juice the lemon over the zucchini. Grill over direct high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until they are charred but not blackened. Cool and set aside.
- Blanch the snap peas: Prepare a large bowl of ice water and have a dish towel handy. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil (Use 1 tablespoon for each 6 quarts of water.) Add the peas to the water and cook, boiling, for about 5 minutes. Remove the peas with a slotted spoon and place in the ice water. Move the peas around in the water. Let them cool, then remove to a towel and dry. Slice off the tips and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1/2-inch each).
- Cook the grains: In a medium saucepan, soak wheat berries in water to cover for several hours. (If using freekeh, skip this step.) Place pan over high heat, add salt to the water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, until they are cooked through but still toothsome.
- Make the salad: Chop the dill and mint. Place wheat berries in a large bowl. Toss with zucchini, snap peas and pickled onions. Drizzle with lemon olive oil and pickle juice, tasting to see whether you need 1 or 2 tablespoons pickle juice. Toss with mint, dill, salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 large red onion
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons salt
- Thinly slice onion and place in a glass or heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil. Carefully pour over onion slices. Let steep for 20 minutes. Transfer to a sealable container. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.