Move on over quinoa! There's a "new kid" in town...Freekeh Salad with Spring Vegetables highlights this unique grain with its chewy, smoky complexity, and delivers tons of flavor and nutrients. With seasonal spring vegetables like English peas, fresh radishes, and carrots, it makes a beautiful spring salad/side dish. Add chick peas for a healthy vegetarian dish, or (our favorite) top with a salmon fillet!
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!~~ Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Detective
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
It's March 1, and spring should be just around the corner? (In the northern hemisphere 😉 ). For those in the frozen north, I know you long for signs of spring.
For this girl in deep south Texas on the Gulf, spring can be elusive. We had snow this winter (highly unusual), and nearly lost our 3 banana trees to the freezing temperatures. And then it was summer... We hit 93 degrees and humid in mid-February. Geez!
Spring is a wonderful season for produce in gardens and kitchens alike. How many of your favorite vegetables make an appearance in early spring? My list includes English peas, radishes, and
real "baby" and heirloom carrots featured in my Freekeh Salad with Spring Vegetables, but artichokes and asparagus are right up there! What are your favorites? Or do you merely tolerate vegetables?
🍚 What is Freekeh?
Freekeh is wheat (and therefore NOT gluten free) that is harvested while still young and green, then toasted and cracked. While still mostly unknown in the US, it has been a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking for thousands of years.
Freekeh is a "super grain," loaded with fiber, protein, and nutrients. It contains more fiber and protein than quinoa, and provides calcium, iron, and zinc. It may be tolerated by individuals with wheat sensitivity due to the fact that it has not evolved the way our modern wheat has.
I love both the flavor and texture of freekeh. It's a bit smoky and nutty, and holds its texture very well. It cooks in 25 minutes - more quickly than brown rice and barley. You'll love it in salads, hot dishes, and as a simple pilaf to go with your main... You may even love it for breakfast!
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- broth or water
- freekeh - Freekeh comes in both quick-cook and regular varieties. Be sure to check package instructions.
- carrots - I got gorgeous young purple carrots at the farmers' market. While I love raw carrots, I love them even more roasted to crisp tender with a bit of caramelization. I cut them into bite-sized thin wedges, and roasted them at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil and flaked salt. You can substitute grated carrots or tiny dice. You don't want big hunks of raw carrot! 😀
- English peas - Fresh is best, but frozen peas will work. Rinse them thoroughly to thaw, and do not cook them.
- radishes - I LOVE Easter egg radishes that are available in the spring!
- herbs - I use dill and chives from my garden. If you must use dried dill, reduce amount by half.
- cheese - Crumbled feta or chevre is optional, and not vegan.
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper
Citrus Dill Vinaigrette
- citrus juice - We're at the height of citrus season in the Rio Grande Valley. I used half blood orange and half meyer lemon juice. Grapefruit and tangerine would be great choices as well. If you use regular lemon and/or lime juice, you may need to adjust the sweetness to taste.
- olive oil
- vinegar - I like white wine or champagne vinegar. Rice vinegar is another good option.
- honey - Maple syrup or agave nectar are good substitutions. Agave nectar requires less, so add half, taste, and adjust as needed.
- dijon mustard
- shallot - Red or sweet onion is fine as well.
- fresh dill - If you must use dried dill, cut the quantity by half.
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- Cook the freekeh - Add the freekeh and salt to boiling water in a medium saucepan. Please refer to package instructions. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat, and allow it to stand covered for 5 minutes. Remove to a large mixing bowl or prep bowl to cool completely.
- Make the dressing - While the freekeh cooks, prep the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a small blender, and blend until smooth. Season. Taste, and adjust as needed. Set aside.
- Prep all salad ingredients - Bite-sized pieces are important, but beyond that, you have options. I love to roast baby rainbow carrots, but it's not necessary. I just love the additional flavor of the caramelization. If using fresh English peas, you may want to steam or boil them until crisp-tender. I put them in a microwave safe bowl with water, and cook 3 minutes (they're still pretty crisp!). Don't salt them while they cook as that can make them tough. See How to Cook Peas Four Easy Ways.
- Make the salad - Add the prepared vegetables to the bowl, along with cheese (if using). Pour on the Citrus Dill Vinaigrette, and toss to combine. Garnish as desired, and enjoy!
- Refer to your freekeh package for amount of liquid under "basic instructions." The freekeh that I use requires 2 ½ cups liquid, but they're not all the same!
- On a lucky spring day, I can get my hands on a package of fresh shelled English peas (YUM!). I lightly steam them. Frozen petite peas are a good substitution. I just give them a good rinse until they're completely thawed, and drain them.
- Cheese is optional. We love feta or chevre, but you can use your favorite or skip it entirely for a vegan salad.
- We're at the height of citrus season in the Rio Grande Valley. I used half blood orange and half meyer lemon juice. Grapefruit and tangerine would be great choices as well. If you use regular lemon and/or lime juice, you may need to adjust the sweetness to taste.
- Can I store leftovers? Yes! This healthy salad keeps really well in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days.
- What other vegetables can I use? Diced summer squash and asparagus delicious, but almost any will work. Choose your favorites.
- I can't find freekeh. What can I substitute? Cooked quinoa, couscous, bulgur, barley will all work!
In creating this freekeh salad, I was looking for fresh, spring flavors using seasonal ingredients. No herb says "spring" IMHO than dill. The dill in my herb garden is plentiful in early spring (before the heat of south Texas takes its toll!).
Adding cheese is optional, and if you're dairy sensitive, you'll still love the salad in its absence... We love it with both feta and chèvre, with feta having the edge. I had a chunk of chèvre that needed to be used on photo shoot day, so if you see cheese at all in the photos, that's what you're seeing. Dicing or crumbling chèvre is not really an option.
Lastly, this delicious and nutritious freekeh salad is easily turned into a main dish. For the vegetarian, add beans or legumes. I highly recommend chick peas! For seafood lovers like me, a salmon portion perched on top is perfection! In fact, on photo shoot day, we topped our Spring Vegetable Freekeh Salad with a sous vide salmon fillet with meyer lemon and fresh dill. YUM!