Hi everyone! As part of the continuing series of guest posts scheduled while I’m off on my excellent adventures in Iran, this post is by the lovely Tortore, aka Darya, is a most fascinating and versatile blogger. As if food blogging is not hard enough, she writes her posts in both French and English. Darya’s studies have taken her on travels to Syria and Iraq and she often shares very interesting recipes either hailing from or inspired by the cuisine of these regions but she also shares Russian, Italian, American, French, and Asian cuisine as well. Darya’s blog is beautiful and clearly a labor of love of passion and one that you will make a habit of frequenting once you visit. Now let’s go devour this refreshing and pretty salad recipe!
Freekah, celery, and pomegranate salade | By Tortore
On the first weekend of September, I helped my friends out in their kitchen, peeling onions, chopping celery, frying fries, and cooking mussels for the Lille Braderie (the biggest “garage-sale-street-fair-mussel-eating-and-beer-drinking-event” in Europe). In the midst of a celery-chopping session, two of my friends asked me what one could use celery for… apart from Moules Marinières. At that moment, the only thing I could think of was Waldorf Salad (yum), but I thought it would be nice to come up with some other ideas as well.
When I went to fetch my local vegetables yesterday evening, I discovered that the “bunch of celery” which I had ordered was so huge that it was almost scary. I don’t usually use more than a stick or two of celery for my recipes, and I was a bit lost at the idea of having to use up that entire bunch. It didn’t even fit in the refrigerator. I had to stick the root into a huge pot of water, and hope the celery would still be fresh and crunchy the next day. And it was! Now that I have used some of it, I could do what I usually do when getting celery: I removed the leaves, washed, dried, and froze them for soups; and I wrapped the stems in foil, and placed them in the refrigerator. Celery doesn’t keep for very long before going limp, but I hope I can share some other recipes with you in a near future. I decided it was high time to give another thought to that question my friends had asked me back in September, and I hope they (and you) will enjoy what I have come up with.
After going through some cookbooks and websites, I decided I would begin with a salad. Not the usual tuna salad or egg salad (though I think I will make an egg salad at some point soon), but a light and fresh salad. I have already mentioned that I enjoy making one-course meals using a whole-grain, as they are quick, tasty, healthful, are usually not very time consuming, and can be made ahead of time. This salad is one of those. Today, I chose to use freekeh, which is wheat, harvested when still green, and roasted; I love it’s slightly smoky taste, firm texture, and the fact that it reminds me of Syria (where we used to eat it plain, drizzled with some clarified butter, or mixed with small pieces of leftover mutton). You could use farro, spelt, wheatberries, oat groats, rye, or any other firm grain you like. I should perhaps advise you against using barley, rice, and buckwheat here (trust me: barley will yield a mushy mess, rice will taste a bit bland here, and the taste of buckwheat is just too strong for this salad). While the grain is cooking, I washed, chopped, minced, and whisked. The cooked grain is then mixed with the seasoning, and allowed to cool. And that’s it! This salad is both fresh and crunchy, slightly tangy, and filling; it was unanimously appreciated in my home, so I hope you will want to try it in yours some day!
(serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 if you serve it as part of a mezze-dinner). This recipe was inspired by Y. Ottolenghi’s Barley and celery salad (from Plenty), his Roasted cauliflower salad recipe (in Jerusalem), and a recipe from 101 Cookbooks.
– 125 gr (4.4 oz) freekeh
– 250 gr. (1/2 lb) fresh celery, with leaves
– A large handful of flatleaf parsley, washed, dried, and finely minced
– 5-6 bushy sprigs of dill (or more), washed, dried, and finely minced
– About 50 gr. (1.7 oz) walnuts, roughly chopped
– Arils of about 1/2-3/4 of a pomegranate
– 1 very small garlic clove, peeled, germ removed, and finely minced
– A pinch of ground allspice
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
– 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes (or Espelette), optional
– A drizzle of lemon juice (optional: for lovers of all things tangy)
– Place the freekeh in a medium pot, and cover with cold water by at least 5 cm (about 2 inches). Bring the water to a boil, add salt, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the freekeh until done, but still slightly chewy. [I would advise you to follow the instructions on the packet, but mine claimed the freekeh would be done after 15 minutes, when it really took a good 30 minutes before it was anywhere near being done; you had better taste as it cooks].
– Prepare the dressing: in the bowl you are planning to serve the salad in, place the minced garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, as well as a pinch of allspice. Add the pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and lemon juice (if using). Whisk together, and set aside.
– While the freekeh is cooking, wash and dry the celery, and herbs. Seed the pomegranate. Coarsely chop the walnuts. Remove the leaves from the celery, reserving a small handful leaves (chop them finely). Chop the parsley and dill finely as well. Slice the celery into 3 mm (1/8 inch) pieces. [You could do all the chopping later, while the freekeh is cooling].
– As soon as the freekeh is one, drain, and immediately add to the salad bowl (it should still be hot, so as to absorb all the flavors or the dressing). Add the celery. Mix, and taste for seasoing. Then let the salad cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs and celery leaves, pomegranate, and last of all, walnuts*. Sprinkle with a little red pepper flakes if you wish.
– Serve at room temperature, or cold.
* Note: the walnuts are only added at the last moment, so if you are making this salad ahead of time, or have made enough for several meals, only add the walnuts to each serving. That way they won’t soften or become bitter.
Thank you Darya joon for graciously allowing me to post one of your beautiful recipes!