This salad tastes like spring waved a wand of freshness over an earthy, tender grain, turning a handful of practical, staple ingredients into a bright, versatile dish. The grain here is freekeh, an ancient whole wheat that hails from the Middle East. It cooks up soft and fluffy, with a gentle chew and a light, toasty flavor, which is owed to harvesting the grain while it’s still young and green, and then roasting it over an open fire.
I discovered freekeh about a year ago, and it has become a regular in my cupboard. But this salad would work with just about any whole grain you might have in your pantry, such as quinoa, farro or barley, for instance.
Once the grain is cooked and chilled, the sunny spring ingredients brighten it up: sweet flecks of grated carrot, grassy leaves of parsley and cool mint. A generous sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds amplifies the nuttiness of the whole grain and adds richness and crunch, while a simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette ties the elements together.
Served as a bed for, or alongside, some roasted chicken or lamb kebabs, topped with an egg or two, or as part of a mezze spread with hummus and cut vegetables, this is a satisfying salad that’s just right for the season.
Grain Salad With Carrot, Herbs And Sesame SeedsActive: 20 minutes | Total: 1 hour
4 servings; about 2/3 of a cup
Make ahead: The grain may be cooked and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.
1 cup (7 ounces) uncooked freekeh, farro, barley or quinoa
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 cup coarsely grated carrot (from 1 large carrot)
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the freekeh (or farro, barley or a grain of your choice) in salted boiling water according to package directions, until al dente. Drain any excess liquid and refrigerate until the grain is chilled, at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.
In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring often, until golden and fragrant and beginning to pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the cooked grain, sesame seeds, carrot, parsley, mint and lemon zest into a medium bowl and toss until mixed. Add the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and gently toss to coat.