While I’m freezing my butt off in upstate New York and learning to cut a French rack of lamb ribs, I thought it’d be nice to share a cozy winter recipe. And since I think I’ll be sharing a lot more meat recipes in the near future, here’s one for the vegetable lovers in the room.
I made this last week with some Freekeh (pronounced “Freek-ah”) from Cayuga Pure Organics, a dried bean and grain vendor at our Grand Army Plaza greenmarket. Freekeh is a most awesome grain. It’s chewy and nutty and quite delicious, not to mention eating grains like this is good for you. Actually, here’s a better description from Cayuga:
Our Freekeh is roasted green spelt berries. It is also known as “Gruenkern” in Southern Germany, where it is a substantial part of the diet. The spelt is harvested when it is still young, wet and “green”. It is then slow roasted over coals in the hulls, and is then de-hulled resulting in a beautiful green spelt berry.
Last Winter I was making a simple salad of Freekeh with spinach and sautéed mushrooms. I’m sure I put goat cheese on it. But this time around I thought I’d put a weeknight twist on a favorite starter for cold weather dinner parties with roasted squash, bacon, pecans and bitter dandelion greens. It’s a recipe that I love from Sunday Suppers with Luques (a wonderful cookbook from Chez Panisse veteran, Suzanne Goin).
I added more greens, using Swiss Chard, and Freekeh to make a satisfyingly hearty winter salad with some warm elements. It hit the spot during a season when I’m not necessarily craving a plate of greens and was also great for lunch the next day.
Freekeh, Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad with Bacon and Roasted Pecans
- 1 cup Freekeh
- 1 small winter squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 small bunch of Swiss Chard, stemmed and cut crosswise into 1″ strips
- 1/2 cup roasted pecans
- 6 oz. bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces
- 1/4 cup of minced shallots
- 1+ tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cover the Freekeh by 1 inch in cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes until it’s tender but still a bit chewy. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toss the squash with a olive oil (be a bit generous), salt and pepper and roast, checking and turning once if they’re browning fast, for about 15-20 minutes. The squash should be tender to a fork, but not falling apart.
In a hot skillet, toast the pecans, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove them to a large salad bowl. Add the squash to the bowl when cooked, then add spinach to the bowl.
Cook the bacon, over medium heat, until it’s just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. You want it to still be chewy, not crisp. Remove it with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Add the shallots to the bacon fat in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until they’re golden and beginning to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar to the pan and quickly stir to deglaze (warning, it will sizzle and evaporate) and then add the vinegar and shallots to the reserved bacon. Toss the bacon and shallots with the spinach, squash and pecans gently until evenly mixed. Plate the salad and shave a few slivers of Pecorino Romano cheese over top before serving.
*I use a vegetable peeler to do this.