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Sarah’s Freekeh & Arugula Salad

Two weeks out from Thanksgiving, I’m desperate for lighter meals and ways to stave off sugar cravings induced by all the delicious sugar treats that will continue to surround many of us for the next month. I was chatting with  Sarah, whose blog When Apricots Bloom is an homage to an exploration of Palestinian and other Levant dishes. She too felt the same desire to take the buttered carbs down a notch, and incidentally was excited to try out a new recipe raved about by her mother. Sarah’s mom recently returned from a trip to Palestine, where her niece made this freekeh salad for her.

On Apricots and via her beautiful Instagram page, Sarah is on a similar mission to break down the vaguely decipherable measurements of our expert cook moms into an easy to repeat guide of shareable, delicious recipes, offering hints of nostalgia along the way.  It occurs to me as I share Sarah’s recipe, that the cooking repertoires of our mothers are just as influenced by their mothers as they are by the friends they made later in life. They created small sub communities that played a meaningful role in their experimenting with ingredients. My own parents moving in and out of different neighborhoods over decades connected my mother to some pretty special chefs along the way:  Mona, the Lebanese woman down the street when we lived in the San Fernando Valley who made the best desserts, or the lovely Iraqi woman with the most perfect Lauren Hutton-esque gap tooth smile who lived nearby who was my first introduction to tea made with a double boiler, not using mint, but cardamom. There are others to speak of, but they all had in common a proximity to each other that was essential to their meeting, and sharing experience.

Sarah and I have never actually met. We’ve only ever spoken online in one medium or another, but from the very first exchange I feel like she’s right next door to me. I don’t know if people still borrow cups of sugar, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Sarah has indeed shared a cup of sugar or a fresh batch of something delicious she just whipped up for her neighbors. In fact, the the week I was introduced to her page, I kept running into and meeting people who had just received newly harvested, raw olives delivered to them from Sarah so that they could brine and pickle them. Such generosity of spirit reminds me of the aforementioned women from my childhood, and also the Palestinians I had the pleasure of meeting when I was in the West Bank a few short years ago.  I couldn’t tell you the name of the people who just moved in down the street from me, but I can share Sarah’s cousin’s freekeh salad recipe with you today by way of her mom – who apparently also makes a mean Freekeh Stuffed Chicken that speaks to my turkey stuffing loving heart. (Maybe cause for a future post?)

The healthy dose of fiber that freekeh offers makes this salad filling and contributes to its bold, nutty flavor. Per Sarah’s suggestion, this salad would also be great topped with roasted chicken pieces, and no reason not dare to add a mild white fish either!

1 cup Freekeh

2+ cups hot water, pre-boiled

Arugula (as much as you see fit)

½ Red Bell Pepper

½ Yellow Bell Pepper

1-2 Carrots, shredded or ribboned

½ small Red Onion, sliced

For the dressing:

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Sumac, to taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, at least 2 Tablespoons 

1 Lemon, juiced

Pomegranate Molasses, ½ to 1 Teaspoon

From Sarah

Step 1: It is essential to sift through the freekeh and pick out any itty bitty stones or bits that aren’t grains. The freekeh from Olive & Heart’s shop is SUPER clean and I hardly found any little stones but I went through it just in case. Simply pour the cup of freekeh into a clean plate (preferably a solid color so it’s easy to see what is and what isn’t freekeh) and pick through it.

Step 2: Rinse the freekeh thoroughly and transfer to a glass bowl. Pour hot/boiling water over the freekeh and cover with a lid or glass plate. Two cups of water should be sufficient – the freekeh should be completely submerged. It will need to soak until tender – heads up, it takes at least 30-45 minutes. Changing the water out a few times may also help speed up the process. Once that freekeh is tender, strain the freekeh.

Step 3: While the freekeh is soaks, chop up all vegetables mentioned above and set aside. In a separate bowl add a generous pinch of sumac to the sliced onions and rub it between your hands so that the onions take in more flavor.

Step 4: In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and olive oil with a spoon or small whisk. Season to preferred taste. 

Step 5: Toss the dressing with the vegetables, arugula and freekeh in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with sumac before serving.

Sahtain! (equivalent to “salut!” or “bon appétit”)

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