It was totally Strega Nona. You know, how Big Anthony abuses the magic pasta pot, and the town fills with spaghetti, and then the solution (because Strega Nona studied Dante's Inferno?) is for him to eat it all? That's what it was like. It turns out that if you start with 6 cups of cooked spelt, you are going to be making a whole lot of salad. And then, when you're not looking, that salad is going to grow. So that by the time you bring it to a potluck, it's going to be heaped up over the rim of the bowl. And then after the potluck, during which everyone is going to eat tons and tons of it and exclaim over its goodness, I swear, the bowl is going to be nearly full still. And then by morning the bowl with actually be completely full again. It is a magical mystery grain. Plus, it just sounds so bad. Spelt. Spelt. "I brought spelt salad," I said, to my friend Meredith. And then I added, "It's better than it sounds." "It would have to be," she said. "What's with spelt anyway? Spelt. It sounds like spent. Crossed with smelt." Exactly.
How was your holiday? People asked me when I dropped the kids off at school this morning, and I wanted to say, "Spelt-rific!" (I'm sure I've mentioned to you the 4-H sign we once saw in a barn at a county fair: "Goats! They're goat-rific!") We ate so much spelt salad that it was coming out of our ears, and this was after bringing it to a second potluck! Seriously. I mean, it was a great holiday, it was. We swam in a friend's pool. We swam at a swimming hole. We watched almost all of this series with the kids (check for it at your local library). I cleaned the kitchen. We played Puerto Rico and Rummikub and Dutch Blitz. I read this, which blew my mind. We tried to figure out how the mosquitoes are getting into the house. We drank beer. We drank blueberry-coconut smoothies. We drank hard cider. We sweltered. We cooled off. We saw fireflies. Really, it was perfect. But boy, kind of grainy.
Luckily, though, the salad really was fantastic: chewy and earthy, bright and crunchy, tangy and fresh, with ecstatic hits of lemon, sweet bites of cherry, and salty bursts of feta. It is seriously well-balanced and delicious, and thank God. Because I'm about to eat the last bowl of it for lunch.
Summery Whole-Grain Salad
Total time: 45 minutes
Oddly, I don't use olive oil in the dressing here, because I like to let the flavor of the lemon really sing out, unencumbered by another strong taste. But feel free to swap anything around, or swap in anything you like better than something else. And feel free to double the recipe if you're hoping to eat this for the rest of your life.
*3 cups cooked whole grains (such as spelt, farro, wheat berries, brown rice, or barley)
8 ounces frozen baby peas, boiled 1 minute, drained, and cooled under cold water
1 English cuke, halved, seeded, and diced
½ of a small red onion, chopped and rinsed under cold water
The juice (1/4 cup) and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon each sugar and kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dried tart cherries, soaked in warm water for 5-20 minutes, then coarsely chopped
6 ounces crumbled feta
½ of a 7-ounce bag of arugula, coarsely chopped (or parsley, mint, dill, or a combination, finely chopped)
Put the cooked grain in a large bowl, then stir in the peas, cuke, and onion. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper, then stir most of the dressing into the grain. Now add the lemon zest, cherries, feta, and arugula, and stir again. Allow the salad to sit for a little, then stir again and taste, adding the end of the dressing and/or more salt and/or another squeeze of lemon to balance out the flavor. Serve at room temperature or cold.
*To make 3 cups of cooked spelt, I boiled 1 ½ cups of spelt in plenty of salted water until just tender (around 25 minutes), and then I drained it well and put it back in the pot with a dish towel under the lid to let it steam and dry out for another 10 minutes.
|It looks so innocent here, like maybe it's not even going to be enough! You don't understand at first what you're dealing with. Kind of like, Oh, Amityville seems like a nice place to live.|
|Ingredients from Trader Joe's.|
|The lemon situation.|
|At first I thought this bowl was going to be big enough. Kind of like how at first, in Poltergiest, they thought that a burial ground was a good place to build a housing development.|
|I had to switch to the biggest bowl in the world to mix it.|
|But it looks delicious, doesn't it? It really was. Er, is.|