Great Grains

Farmers dutifully set up shop, week after week, hawking their fresh fare at the market no matter the conditions. A particularly stoic lot, they laugh in the face of adverse weather, forging ahead fearlessly where so many others would turn back. They find great bounty where most would see scarcity. Even during these lean, dark days of winter, life erupts from the soil in all rainbow hues, if only the rest of us would open our eyes wide enough to fully appreciate it.

While cravings for local berries are fierce at times, greater seasonal riches are available to quell that temptation. All it takes is a bit of care, pairing bright flavors with a range of textures, to satisfy while maximizing the available fresh produce.

Leaning more heavily on hearty cooked grains than frilly tender greens, this is a salad built to endure colder, less forgiving days. Toothsome, high-protein kamut, known in some circles as Khorasan wheat, is the backbone of this production here, another unsung hero that rarely garners the praise it truly deserves. Lest you write it off as just another one-dimensional side dish, consider the limitless possibilities it possesses for adaptation. Restorative and soothing when served warm, it’s just as satisfying prepared in advance and served chilled, for those unpredictable spikes in temperature as spring grows nearer. Transform it into a one-bowl main dish by tossing in cooked beans of any sort, and ramp up the rainbow of vegetables by adding thinly sliced radishes, shredded carrots, and/or diced avocado. Crowning the whole affair with a handful of crumbled vegan feta may be gilding the lily, but that small indulgence is the perfect foil to such a robust, no-nonsense foundation.

Having used this base as a starting point for countless culinary adventures already, I can vouch for all of these additions, but by no means are they your only options. Simply look to your local market with fresh eyes and see how many wonderful options still flourish and thrive, rather than the typical staples that may be absent. There’s still a wide world of flavor our there, ready to be discovered.

Yield: Makes 4 – 6 Servings

Kamut and Kale Salad

Kamut and Kale Salad

Toothsome, high-protein kamut, known in some circles as Khorasan wheat, is the backbone of this winter salad. Restorative and soothing when served warm, it’s just as satisfying prepared in advance and served chilled, for those unpredictable spikes in temperature as spring grows nearer. Transform it into a one-bowl main dish by tossing in cooked beans of any sort, and ramp up the rainbow of vegetables by adding thinly sliced radishes, shredded carrots, and/or diced avocado.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

Kamut and Kale Salad

  • 2 Cups Cooked Kamut*
  • 6 Ounces Kale, Shredded
  • 1/4 Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves, Minced
  • 1 1/2 Cups Seedless Red Grapes, Halved
  • 1 Pound Red Beets, Cooked, Peeled, and Sliced
  • Vegan Feta (Optional)

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Instructions

  1. If you’d like to serve this salad warm or hot, begin assembly as soon as the kamut is fully cooked. Otherwise, chill the cooked grains for at least two hours before proceeding.
  2. Preparation is very straightforward, and I have a feeling you could probably figure it out just by looking at the list of ingredients. In any event, toss the cooked kamut, kale, onion, mint, grapes, and beets together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together all oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard, adding salt to taste. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and grains, mixing thoroughly to coat. Top with crumbled vegan feta, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

*To cook kamut, I typically use the pasta method, which means adding about a cup or so of grains to a generous measure of water; at least 4 or 5 cups. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 – 60 minutes until the grains are tender but still toothsome, and drain off the excess water. This ensure the perfect texture every time without the threat of having anything stick and burn on the bottom of the pot. Measure out what you need for the recipe and store any extra in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 198Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 401mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 5gSugar: 14gProtein: 6g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

Freekeh Friday

What’s ancient is new again, at least when it comes to whole grains. Freekeh, the latest superfood darling, has made a splash in the culinary scene, appearing on diverse menus that span cuisines to suit all tastes. It’s been around since biblical times, rooted in traditional Middle Eastern and North African cooking, but has recently reinvented itself as the latest nutritional superstar of North America. Even those immune to food trends should take note of this vital ingredient, bearing volumes of flavor and potential to enliven just about any grain dish.

Also referred to as “green wheat” or “young wheat,” it may come as a surprise that this distinctive grain is really the same old cereal we know and love, but treated in a different way. Harvested early while still moist and plump, the kernels are then roasted and frequently cracked, giving them the appearance of bulgur. The similarities end there, made obvious at first bite. Toothsome and chewy, the texture alone is utterly crave-worthy, but the woodsy, nutty, toasted taste and aroma truly seal the deal. Does that sound ordinary to you, pedestrian even, in the face of so many exotic grain options? It did to me, for years resonating as little more than a silly name, but all that will change with your first spoonful. Trust me, eating is believing; I don’t usually cook up big batches of plain grains, but even without a single pinch of salt or pepper, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Despite devouring a heaping helping of plain freekeh all by its lonesome, I knew there was even more hidden potential locked within those broken kernels. Starting with such a perfect blank canvas, it didn’t take much to coax that untapped inspiration out of hiding.

Of course, I couldn’t resist a good pun, either. With a name like “freekeh,” the possibilities are ripe with witty opportunities. Dirty freekeh, a riff on standard dirty rice, brings so much more than another boring side dish to the party. It sings with spices, bursts with fresh vegetables at every turn, and supports a healthy dose of vegan protein within a hearty grain base. If anything, it’s more like a clean rendition of dirty rice, forgoing the livers and gibbets in favor of tempeh, a swap that even staunch omnivores might appreciate.

If not for the fine folks at Village Harvest, I may have never made the leap to investigate this “new” ancient ingredient. Now that I’m hooked though, it pains me that it’s not more widely available, restricted to a limited release only in select south-east Costco stores. Though slightly heartbroken, I’m still happy to have access to dozens of their other grainy offerings, found nationwide. That sort of everyday luxury is one that everyone should have, which is why I want to share two freebie coupons with two hungry readers, good for any Village Harvest product of your choice. As an added bonus, you’ll even take away a large “Grainivore” t-shirt to boast your love of grains to the world, loud and proud. Interested in entering? Talk to me about freekeh- Have you eaten it before? What’s your favorite preparation? Does the name make you giggle, too? Just be sure to leave me a comment with your name and email in the appropriate boxes before April 30th at midnight EST. This post will be updated shortly thereafter with the announcement of the two selected winners.

UPDATE: The entry period is over and a winner has been selected by the trusty random number generator. The two lucky commenters who are about to get their freekeh on are…

Commenters #6 and #3; Gabby @ the Veggie Nook and sustainabilitea! Congrats, you’ll be hearing from me shortly about how to collect your prizes.

Even if you can’t get your hands on those rarefied bags of cracked freekeh, any grain can be made dirty, so to speak. Just substitute 3 cups of your favorite cooked and cooled whole grains, such as quinoa, barley, farro, or of course, rice.

Dirty Freekeh

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
1 8-Ounce Package Tempeh, Diced
1/2 Cup Minced Button Mushrooms
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
3 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 Celery Stalks, Diced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, Seeded and Finely Chopped
1/2 Medium Red Bell Pepper
1 Cup Mushroom Broth
3 Cups Cooked Cracked Freekeh (From 1 Cup Raw)
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
6 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
3 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, Minced
1 – 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt

Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and wait until it start shimmering. Add in the tempeh and saute, searing the outsides to a crispy golden brown. Stir gently so that you don’t break the cubes into smaller pieces. Once evenly browned on all sides, transfer to a plate and return the pan to the stove.

Pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil, turn down the heat to medium, and toss in the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cook for 6 – 8 minutes, until aromatic, before introducing the celery, Jalapeño, and bell pepper as well. Stir frequently, sauteing until all the vegetables have softened and are just beginning to lightly brown around the edges. Quickly deglaze with the mushroom broth, scraping the bottom of the pan thoroughly to dislodge anything that might have stuck, preventing the goodies from burning. Introduce the cooked freekeh along with all the spices. Stir well to incorporate and distribute the vegetables throughout.

Turn down the heat to medium-low, allowing the mixture to cook gently until all of the broth has been absorbed. It should still be moist, but not soupy. Turn off the heat, add the cooked, crispy tempeh and fresh herbs into the freekeh. Finally, season to taste, and don’t be afraid to get a bit aggressive with the salt to bring out the most flavor. It may look like a lot on paper, but it’s a whole lot of freekeh we’re talking about!

Serve hot, or let cool, chill thoroughly, and enjoy as a cold grain salad later.

Makes 4 – 6 Servings

Printable Recipe

Simplicity in Salad-Form

Unlike some vegans who feel compelled to go against the age-old stereotype that herbivores subsist entirely on twigs and leaves, I’m not afraid to say that I love salads.  Think what you may, but in my eyes, a “salad” can be just about anything, and rarely involves lettuce when I’m in charge. 

Truly, how would this most basic and yet complex term be defined?  Anything chilled and mixed with a dressing?  Think about fruit salad- A sweet twist on the concept that everyone should be quite familiar with.  And then there are bean salads, grain salads, and some bewildering “salads” from down south that involve mayo, pineapple, and bacon. 

They don’t always make sense, they aren’t always healthy, and I certainly don’t endorse them across the board, but it pains me to think that most people still imagine a sad bowl of limp, pale iceberg and maybe some tired old tomato wedges when I say the word “salad.”

On that note, I have come bearing salad, but not one of those obligatory, unwanted side salads that must be choked down in order to get to dessert.  This salad here is comprised mainly of toothsome barley, making it a more wholesome interpretation of pasta salad, in a sense.  Fresh, sweet peas take advantage of the season’s bounty, although frozen and thawed can absolutely work in a pinch. Add in a generous glug of vinegar for a pleasant acidic bite, a handful of chives, and you’re practically done.

Simple almost to the point of brainlessly easy, it’s the perfect quick dish for a hot summer day, or lazy picnic any time.  Just pack it up into little jars, and you’re good to go.  It keeps well, both refrigerated and not, so you don’t have to worry about it spoiling while you go play outside.

Yield: Serves 4 – 6 as a Side Dish

Barley and Fresh Pea Salad

Barley and Fresh Pea Salad

This salad here is comprised mainly of toothsome barley, making it a more wholesome interpretation of pasta salad, in a sense. Fresh, sweet peas take advantage of the season’s bounty, although frozen and thawed can absolutely work in a pinch. Add in a generous glug of vinegar for a pleasant acidic bite, a handful of chives, and you’re practically done.

Prep Time 2 minutes
Total Time 2 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. A salad like this hardly needs instructions, but here goes: Toss the cooked barley and peas in a bowl, crumble in the “feta,” drizzle in both vinegars and oil. Add the chopped herbs and toss well. Taste, and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to three days.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 183mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 5g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

All About Balance

Stress. The general public, myself included, simply oozes stress. It’s bad enough on a typical day, with the usual work- and school-related pressures, but now that it’s officially December, as of a few hours ago, the whole game has changed. For many, it’s time to go into full-out holiday madness mode, eschewing a quiet and cozy celebration for something big, perhaps a touch complicated, but above all else, labor intensive.

While most of my own ideas revolve around blog posts or decorating the house, it’s slowly occurred to me that even this “simple” strategy could easily spiral out of control, threatening to eat up every spare moment up until the big day (or in my case days) to hammer out all the fine details. And boy, if you’re working on a Hannukah extravaganza, good luck; the first day will be on our doorsteps in less than two weeks. Less than two weeks! I kid you not, it’s enough to overwhelm even the calmest party planners among us. Even I’m getting a bit freaked out now, so let just take a moment to breathe, shall we?

Like my boss would say, it’s all about balance. All the rich, fatty delights of the holidays are sure to tempt at every turn, but this early in the game, they’re nothing but trouble. Pair this with the urgent need to get things done, and it’s no wonder that stress levels are through the roof! With a belly full of soy nog and candy cane fudge, all one could reasonably hope to accomplish might be a sound nap, not focused worked of any sort. Trust me, I know from experience!

To dilute some of that excess holiday cheer that will be headed your way, I offer today not a sweet fix, but instead a wholesome savory dish in an attempt to balance out the treats to come. Quinoa, my favorite super grain (well seed, technically) is paired with one dynamite green spread that will definitely see many repeat performances in my kitchen from here on in. Although I’m calling it a pesto, you may notice that it is not, in fact, anything like traditional pesto- There’s no basil nor pine nuts. Pistachios stand in for the nuts, and spinach provides the greenery here, creating an earthy but dare-I-say buttery sauce. If nothing else, make the pesto and use it in sandwiches, as a tofu marinade, over pasta, or even as a party dip!

Although I went down a more unusual route and decided to soak both the pistachios and quinoa, you could easily skip over this step to make the dish more speedy, using plain pistachios and cooked quinoa. Just be sure to cool the quinoa completely before adding in the veggies, because there’s little worse than hot cucumber!

Yield: Makes 4 - 6 Servings

Lean, Green Quinoa Salad

Lean, Green Quinoa Salad

Quinoa, my favorite super seed, is paired with one dynamite green pesto. Pistachios stand in for the nuts, and spinach provides the greenery here, creating an earthy but dare-I-say buttery sauce.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

Pistachio Pesto:

  • 1/4 Cup Pistachios, Soaked Overnight
  • 3 Cloves Roasted Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons White Miso Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • 6 Ounces Fresh Baby Spinach
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Quinoa Salad:

  • 1 Cup Quinoa, Soaked Overnight and Sprouted
  • 1 English Cucumber, Diced
  • 1 Large Red Pepper, Roasted and Diced
  • 1 Ripe Avocado, Diced

To Serve:

  • Enoki Mushrooms (Optional)
  • Additional Spinach (Optional)

Instructions

  1. The pesto comes together very quickly and easily, just like any other pesto would: Toss the pistachios and garlic into your food processor or blender first, and pulse until there are no large pieces of either
    left. Add in the miso, nutritional yeast, and spinach. It will seem like way too much greenery, but trust me, it blends down to practically nothing. Pulse until the spinach is largely broken down, and then
    drizzle in the lemon juice and oil while the machine runs. Blend longer if you want a smoother sauce, or stop right here and set the pesto aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the [very well rinsed and drained] sprouted quinoa, cucumber, red pepper and avocado. If you plan on keeping this salad and serving it later, just toss the avocado pieces in lemon juice first and drain them thoroughly, to prevent them from browning. Add your pesto into the mix, and stir to evenly distribute the veggies and coat everything evenly in pesto. Top each serving with mushrooms and extra fresh spinach, if desired.

Notes

Although I went down a more unusual route and decided to soak both the pistachios and quinoa, you could easily skip over this step to make the dish more speedy, using plain pistachios and cooked quinoa.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 227Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 290mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 8g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

It’s true that you can’t always win, but I have a feeling that it’s quite possible to always lose. Slogging through a bit of a losing streak myself, it certainly seems that way at least. My apricot ice cream lost, although I’m not the least bit surprised, having watched first-hand as the tally of my competitors’ votes swelled into impressive numbers, while my own inflated temporarily only to burst and collapse like a cheap inflatable pool toy. I’ve given up on entering blog raffles, as the suspense kills me and by the time some one else’s name is announced, you’re just beating a dead horse over here. Nope, I have better things to pin my hopes to. Even though I haven’t officially heard back from the lovely folks at Whole Foods about the most recent contest of theirs that I entered, I have no doubt that a gentle letter of rejection is sure to arrive any moment.

The premise for this contest was simple enough; Make a healthy meal for $4 or less per serving. No problem, that’s pretty much the norm around here anyways. Savories still aren’t my forte though, so taking the safer route, I whipped up a tasty tofu dish and an easy pilaf. Admittedly, the tofu was rather forgettable- Delicious, yes, but nothing to write home about. It was that pilaf, a bulgur pilaf to be exact, that really got my appetite going. I even contemplated sending in an entry of only the pilaf, since it’s a good balance of protein, grains, and veg if you ask me, and I’m all for one-dish meals as well.

Ginger, garlic, and miso make up a flavorful broth, which toothsome whole grain bulgur is only too happy to soak up. Rounded out by some nutty almonds and bright green peas, it’s a simple yet comforting dish that is agreeable to just about every palate. It might not win any awards, but it’s a keeper in my book.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side.

Miso Bulgur Pilaf

Miso Bulgur Pilaf

Ginger, garlic, and miso make up a flavorful broth, which toothsome whole grain bulgur is only too happy to soak up. Rounded out by some nutty almonds and bright green peas, it’s a simple yet comforting dish that is agreeable to just about every palate.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Bulgur Wheat
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Rice Miso Paste
  • 1 3/4 Cups Water
  • 1/4 Cup Frozen Peas, Thawed
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Almonds, Toasted
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Chives

Instructions

  1. Heat a dry skillet over the stove and toss in the bulgur. Toast for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the bulgur moving, until it smells nutty and turns slightly darker brown. Pour the grains out onto a plate, and place the emptied skillet back over the heat.
  2. Add in the oil, garlic and ginger, and cook for just a minute or two until the spices have browned a bit. Stir in the lemon zest, soy sauce, and miso paste, breaking up any lumps that may form. Stand back a bit while slowly pouring in the water, as it may hiss and splash slightly. Scrape everything off the bottom if it’s sticking, and add your toasted bulgur into the mix, along with the peas. Turn down the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. If all of the liquid hasn’t been absorbed by then, simply continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, until it has all evaporated.
  3. Let stand for 5 minutes off the heat, and stir in the almonds and chives.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 198Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 331mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 6g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.