freekeh, leeks, oranges & hazelnuts
I've made this "grain salad", for want of a better description, a few times over the last two weeks and I'm showing no signs of slowing down. It's as much a recipe as a method and an idea base, providing an avenue for using up whatever you may have languishing in the fridge and pantry.
Freekeh is a roasted green durum wheat that I turn to quite frequently; in addition to its high protein content, it's got a lot of texture and body and fills me up almost immediately (seriously, the diminutive size of my dinner portions worried me at first). The flavor is nice too; while it's roasted, I wouldn't say you'd recognize the flavor as such, nor is it assertive enough to compete with whatever you want to throw in it.
In the first iteration I used baby spring leeks, and you can substitute spring onions with almost no difference in taste. Regular onions, shallots, and green onions could all be subbed in, just make sure you have enough volume after sauteing to make them an integral part of the final dish. You could also use grapefruit in place of the Cara Cara orange, try a different varietal, or look to tangerines. Regardless of what you use, taste the fruit and make the call as to how to adjust for the sweetness and acidity levels; my oranges were fairly sweet but not overly so, with no acid to speak of, hence the inclusion of pomegranate molasses. You'll need both elements to contrast with the earthy warmth of the freekeh.
1. cut a few strips of zest from an orange (each about 1" x 2"), then zest the rest into a small bowl. in a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of freekeh with 2.5 cups of water, a pinch of salt (I find I usually need more than I think), a quick drizzle of olive oil, and the orange zest strips. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer (keeping covered) and stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed. I usually simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes, then uncover to let the liquid evaporate for another five minutes or so.
2. Slice whatever onion variety you're using--with leeks, I use the light green and white parts and slice the leek in half lengthwise and then half again, before slicing cross-ways (life guru Jacques has the best method). For spring onions, I generally slice bigger bulbs in half, then slice in about 1/2" lengths. Saute with a bit of butter and olive oil until soft, seasoning rather generously with salt and pepper. At this point you could also add in other things; yesterday I scrambled my spring onions with a few leftover egg whites, but whole eggs or crumbled tofu would be very nice as well. Deglaze with a tablespoon of water if need be, then turn off the heat when done (I'm usually happy with sauteing for 10-15 minutes).
3. With the freekeh and leeks cooking, supreme the orange segments into a second small bowl, and cut larger ones in half. Squeeze as much juice from the orange carcass (what do you even call that part!?) into the bowl with the zest, and discard once you've extracted as much juice as possible. Add any juice that accumulates in the bowl of orange segments to the bowl with zest.
4. This is the part where you need your senses to nail your dressing. To the bowl of orange zest and juice, add about 2 Tbsp of pomegranate molasses, 3 Tbsp of flavorsome/best quality EVOO, a splash of apple cider vinegar (or a milder kind if your fruit is more acidic than sweet), salt and pepper, and maybe even honey if you think it needs additional sweetness, though I prefer to increase the pomegranate molasses. Whisk together, tasting and adjusting as needed. I cannot emphasize enough that you need this to be an assertive dressing, because your leeks and freekeh are going to absorb a lot.
5. When the freekeh is done, add the sauteed onions/leeks to the saucepan and stir to combine. Add the dressing and stir, adjusting seasoning as needed.
As I said, I serve smaller portions of this, particularly if I'm going HAM on the toppings. The above pic shows the orange segments, diced avocado seasoned with Maldon salt, toasted/skinned chopped hazelnuts, and quick pickled shallots (I'd recommend pickled red onions if you have them, their sweetness is really nice). Feta would also play well here.