"We'll never eat all this," my head-talk worried. I'd just spent three hours in the kitchen concocting a massive whole-grain salad. The labor of my love sat on the counter before me on a white oval platter, a splendid pile of kamut, roasted carrots and kale plus more fruity jewels than a binge of Bejeweled. So beautiful! But my salad had formidable competition. I'd made it for the annual Christmas feast for some foodie friends here in St. Louis, our dinner theme that night was an "Egyptian Coptic Christmas". Call me surprised – shocked even – when all but a small portion disappeared in a flash. The next day I sampled the leftover salad on its own, without all the competition. Swoon ... beauty with soul!
It's a hearty salad to celebrate the Coptic Christmas Day today, that's January 7th. After the traditional 43 days of fasting before Christmas? Even better. This salad is definitely a feast food, a festival of color and texture and flavor. It would also be good for a special Meatless Monday. This salad has a few moving parts, the kamut, the carrots, the onion, the kale and all the fruit. But in the end? Totally worth it. [Still curious? Read more about the Coptic Christian tradition here, WhyChristmas.]
WHAT IS KAMUT? Kamut is the brand name for an "ancient grain" wheat called Khorosan – the kernels are twice as big and contain more protein. The texture is meaty, the taste nutty. Two years ago, it was nowhere to be found in St. Louis but is part of the wonderful product lineup from Bob's Red Mill. But if you can't find kamut, a good substitute would be the Italian grain called farro. Barley would also be a good substitute, so would buckwheat. (For my fellow Word Dancers. A brand name for a food, really? You know, like Kleenex is to tissue. Or Parmigiano Reggiano for genuine parmesan cheese.)
RECIPE for EGYPTIAN KAMUT SALAD with CARROT & POMEGRANATE
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes about 6 cups
Plan ahead! The kamut needs to soak overnight before cooking.
1-1/2 cups kamut
1 pound carrots, preferably long and slim, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick half-moons
1 small bunch kale
MIX IT UP!
Sautéed red onion
Cooked kale (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped small
1/4 cup dates, cut into small bits
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into bits
Additional salt, to taste
Additional white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped fine
A few slivers of dried apricot
A few larger toasted walnuts
A "rain" of pomegranate seeds (here's the Quick & Easy Way to Remove the Seeds)
A drizzle of pomegranate molasses
A sprig of fresh mint plus few tiny mint leaves
A whole carrot, peeled, with an inch of stem still attached, optional
KAMUT At least one day before serving, cover the kamut plus four inches of water and let soak overnight. Drain the kamut, then cook following this recipe, Oven-Baked Whole-Grain Pilaf with Quinoa, Barley, Kamut & Other Grains. For the fat, don't hesitate to use a fat with flavor, I used some schmaltz leftover from smoking chickens, very good.
CARROTS Heat oven to 400F/200C. In a large bowl, stir together carrots, vinegar and oil until the carrot pieces are covered on all surfaces. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and let roast for 20 minutes. The carrots should be cooked but not soft or particularly caramelized. Let cool.
ONION Heat a skillet on medium heat, add oil and heat until shimmery. Add salt and onions, stirring to coat with fat. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fully cooked and have taken on a little color. Let cool.
KALE Wash kale well, cut out the center ribs and cut leaves into ribbons. Cook kale ribbons like this, Greek Greens (Flash Cook to Eat Later).
MIX IT UP! In a large bowl, stir together everything except the fresh mint. Taste and adjust the seasoning, salt and white pepper both – keep in mind that the toppings will be added later, you want a little heat. Now turn in the more delicate mint.
TOPPINGS On a platter, pile high the salad. Top with the apricot and walnuts, then "rain" with an abundance of pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, then arrange a few mint leaves on top. If you're using a carrot for garnish, situate it too.
TO MAKE AHEAD, cook the kamut, carrots, onion and kale ahead of time and refrigerate separately. You can also cut up the dates and dried apricot, toast and chop the walnuts. Assemble the salad up to four hours before serving and refrigerate. Just before serving, pile salad high on a platter and "rain" with the toppings.
LEFTOVERS keep beautifully for a day or two.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
KAMUT You "can" cook the kamut without soaking but I don't recommend it and you'll need to allow a lot more time and be prepared for the kamut to be quite meaty/chewy. It turns out, we liked this, it makes the salad seem way more "main dish" than a soft grain. After soaking, you "can" also cook the kamut on the stovetop in well-salted water but I especially appreciate how when it's baked, the cumin and white pepper penetrate the grain, seasoning it.
FOR A CROWD I doubled this recipe for serving two dozen at a large, many-course and many-dish meal. In addition to the toppings specified, I also peeled a fresh carrot, leaving an inch or so of the stem attached and laid it across the top. Very dramatic!
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MORE RECIPES FOR HEALTHY MEATLESS MONDAY SUPPERS~ Swiss Chard Skillet Supper with Tomatoes, Corn, Fresh Dill & Feta ~
~ Broccoli & Tomato Thai Curry ~
~ Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Spinach & Feta ~
~ more vegetarian supper recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Mediterranean Eggplant ~
~ Squash & Carrot Stew ~
~ Broccoli Rigatoni with Chickenpeas & Lemon ~
~ more vegetarian main-dish recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
SEASONAL EATING: THIS SAME WEEK ACROSS THE YEARSCarrots Braised in Marsala Tool Tip: Avocado Knife (and Its Replacement) Watercress, Clementine & Blue Cheese Salad Turkey, Tortellini & Watercress Soup Baked Eggs in Cream with Spinach Sugar Snap Peas with Soy Sauce Roasted Kohlrabi Broccoli with Sautéed Garlic 15-Bean Soup Homemade Minestrone Soup Homemade Vegetable Bouillon (< this week's favorite!) Sweet Potato Soup with Quinoa & Coconut Milk Vegetables 101: What Are Bitter Greens? How to Roast a Pepper on a Gas Stove Rustic Tomato Basil Soup How to Make a Spinach Omelet
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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