Something about a grain salad always helps me bridge the seasons. Like lighter soups, they fill me up without weighing me down, and they can usually be served cold, hot or in between.
Freekeh is a grain with an interesting backstory, a legend involving a long-ago fire that burned still-green wheat in the Middle East. I’ve seen some accounts peg it to an act of war, while Roxana Jullapat, in her gorgeous book “Mother Grains,” pins it on two neighboring farmers caught in a dispute. Whatever the truth is, the important part of the story is that the grains were discovered to be still edible once the outer burned part was removed.
And not just edible: Pardon the wordplay, but freekeh is freaking delicious, with a slightly chewy texture and a subtly smoky flavor. It also cooks in just 15 minutes or so, which makes it suitable for last-minute dinner planning. Jullapat’s recipe pairs it with blanched sugar snap peas, raw baby spinach leaves and quickly sauteed leeks and mushrooms, bound in a simple lemon vinaigrette.
She serves the salad cold in the deli case of her Los Angeles restaurant Friends & Family, but I devoured it at room temperature — and can imagine warming it through in a skillet or the microwave as the days tilt harder toward winter.
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Make Ahead: The freekeh, snap peas and leek-mushroom mixture can each be cooked separately and refrigerated for up to 2 days before making the salad.
Storage: The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Where to Buy: Freekeh can be found in some well-stocked grocery and natural-foods stores, and in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean markets.
- 1 cup (5 ounces) freekeh
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt or table salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 2 cups (6 ounces) sugar snap peas (may substitute snow peas or green beans)
- 1 small leek (8 ounces), white and light green parts
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 cups (5 ounces) fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
- 2 cups (2 ounces) baby spinach
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
In a medium dry saucepan over medium heat, toast the freekeh, tossing, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the freekeh is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain any excess water and transfer the freekeh to a large salad bowl.
While the freekeh is cooking, remove the tough string that runs along the side of each sugar snap pea. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and blanch the snap peas until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Drain immediately and let cool completely. Cut each pea into thirds at an angle and add to the freekeh in the bowl.
Cut the leek in half lengthwise and slice into thin half-moons. Put the slices in a bowl and cover with cold water to remove any dirt. Using a slotted spoon or spider, lift the leeks out of the water and drain. If they are still gritty, repeat the process.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the cleaned leeks and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their liquid, darken and soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the salad bowl and let cool.
Roughly chop the spinach and add it to the salad bowl.
Pour the lemon juice into a small bowl. Pour in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in a thin, steady stream while whisking vigorously. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to combine. Taste, and season with more salt and/or lemon juice, if needed. Serve at room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.
Per serving (1 1/2 cups)
Calories: 442; Total Fat: 29 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 763 mg; Carbohydrates: 41 g; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 11 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Adapted from “Mother Grains” by Roxana Jullapat (W.W. Norton, 2021).
Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to email@example.com.
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