Freekeh is an ancient grain and staple of the Middle East. Freekeh is made from green wheat that’s harvested when the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft. The grains are dried in the sun and set on fire. This imparts a bold, smoky, nutty flavor to the grains that is delicious when combined with sweet ingredients like berries and stone fruit. And salty ones. And acidic things.
This salad is all of that: smoky freekeh dressed in a salty, creamy, feta cheese vinaigrette. Add sweet blackberries, shaved fresh fennel, and acid in the form of pickled shallots, and — between the blackberries and the freekeh — you have a wonderful salad with killer nutritional stats!
Serves 6 | 30 minutes
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh marjoram
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups cooked freekeh, wheat, spelt berries, or other grain
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced, about 1 cup (reserve fronds for garnish)
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
To make the vinaigrette, put the red wine vinegar in a nonreactive bowl with the shallots and salt. Let sit 30 minutes to soften the shallots. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shallots to a small bowl and set aside.
Whisk the olive oil into the vinegar and add the cheese. It might separate, which is OK. Fold in the herbs, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the freekeh with vinaigrette to taste. Begin with half the amount and add more vinaigrette if the grains seem dry. Fold in the sliced fennel and pickled shallots, adding more vinaigrette if desired, Finish with the blackberries. Fold them in gently or scatter on top of the salad to keep the berry juices from turning the salad purple. Garnish with the fennel fronds and serve at room temperature.