Crunchy, crispy, sweet, tangy and earthy; I’m never bored eating a grain-based salad. Especially when the other components outnumber the grains, as in this colorful, kale and tomato-enhanced version with garlic scapes and freekeh.
Freekeh — which you can get from Upstate New York’s Cayuga Organics — is an Arabic whole grain that’s traditionally slightly smoked while drying out. This gives it a deeper color and toasty flavor. It resembles whole spelt or wheat berries otherwise, and is actually made from green, or early-harvested wheat. If you’ve ever cooked with these types of grains, you’ll know that they take a while of cooking to plump up, resulting in pleasantly chewy pebbles.
Since freekeh is smoked, I thought I’d add another smoky element to this salad: a good pinch of smoked paprika. This was added to the grains as they cooked, along with a pinch of salt, and as a finishing touch of color at the final toss. Not nearly spicy like cayenne, this simply lent the salad a little hint of warm, savoriness.
Thanks to a Greenmarket in full, late-spring bloom, I was able to score some beautiful grape tomatoes, Red Russian kale, and garlic scapes to chop up for it, too. The kale simply looked like the most crisp, full bunches of greens at Philips Farm’s stand that day, and kale also stores pretty well compared to more delicate greens in your fridge. This type of kale also has attractive purplish-red stalks and veins throughout the leaves, which would add another color to the salad. And once chopped up, those stems are crunchy and juicy — no need to remove the greens from them here.
Garlic scapes are a limited-time, seasonal find, so it’s now or next year to experiment with them. These curled shoots of the garlic bulb have a softer, greener garlicky taste than its cloves. Chopped up and scattered on salads, pastas or a piece of grilled meat, a little goes a long way. I plan to pickle the rest of my bunch of them soon. You could also blend them into a pesto, or use them instead of chopped garlic for sauces and stews.
While the freekeh was cooking and then cooling off, I chopped up the kale into fine shreds and the grape tomatoes, to halves. This was tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and a lot of fresh lemon juice. It might look like there is far too enormous a pile of kale at this stage, but once it’s soaked up the juices and oil, and especially once it’s tossed with the cooled grains, it will shrink down to just a generous scattering of green throughout the salad (sort of like parsley in tabbouleh). At this point you can toss in crumbled cheese such as feta, or chopped nuts or pumpkin seeds. But with a little extra drizzle of good olive oil, those zesty garlic scapes, and enough seasoning to taste, that was it for me.
The best part about this salad is how much it fills you up with so little. Eating whole grains rather than refined flours will do that — and will keep your energy growing steadily throughout the day.
Smoked Paprika Freekeh Salad with Kale, Tomatoes & Garlic Scapes
(makes 2-3 servings)
1 cup dried freekeh
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 bunch very fresh, crisp kale, both leaves and stems finely chopped
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 garlic scape shoot, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon to one lemon, to taste
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a sauce pan over medium-high flame and scatter the freekeh in. Swirl the pan around to lightly toast for 1-2 minutes, or until just fragrant. Add water to cover by 1 inch, and bring just to a boil. Add the paprika and a generous pinch of salt to the water. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Let cook 20 minutes, checking occasionally and adding more water as necessary. Once grains are tender and water has been soaked up, uncover and let cool.
Combine the chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Fold in the cooled freekeh and toss. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to two days.
(for 4-6 servings)
1 cup freekeh (at $6/lb): $2.00
1/2 bunch kale: $1.37
1/2 pint grape tomatoes: $2.00
1 garlic scape (at $1.50/bunch): $0.35
1 lemon: $0.50
3-4 Tb olive oil: $0.40
salt, pepper smoked paprika: $0.25
Two brownie points: Such well-rounded nutrition for such a simple, light meal. It’s thanks in large part to the protein and fiber-rich whole grains, which not only provide essential vitamins and minerals, but contribute to steady energy levels and a feeling of fullness that you just can’t get from refined flours. The plentiful raw kale is a power food to boost your immune system and eliminate free radicals, and provide tons of Vitamin K. The sweet, grape tomatoes have natural sugars that make this salad so tasty, but also more Vitamin C and lycopene. Finally, the only added fat is heart-healthy olive oil, so this dish is vegan, vegetarian, and totally nutritionist-approved.
Eight maple leaves: Another huge score thanks to using all locally-grown plants. Except for the lemon, olive oil, and seasonings, the ingredients in this dish were found at the Greenmarket. Extra points for not wasting one bit of those slightly thick, Red Russian kale stalks here, and the use of garlic scapes as a seasoning, instead of just the bulb.