03 December 2013

Freekia, Squash, and Apple Salad with Honey-Harissa Dressing


First of all, let's get one thing out of the way. That red saucy stuff up there? That is harissa. There is no such thing as harissa powder or some super stiff harissa paste, just that good ole super spicy oily soft peppery harissa. There isn't a lot I get to share from Algeria, but this is one thing I know for sure. (So please don't ask me about Algeria's recent currency fluctuations, I still haven't wrapped my head around that!) There. Aren't you glad we got that out of the way? I don't know about you, but stuff like that really bugs me.

So, second of all, there are approximately 3 million recipes out there on the internets for a farro and squash salad. Seriously, google it. This is my version, inspired by what I have access to, and what was lying around in the fridge that day. We can't get farro so I used freekia (toasted green wheat), but you can use any sort of hearty grain you'd like. I threw in the white beans because I had some leftover ones waiting in the fridge. Personally, I think beans in salad can quickly turn into gloopy smushy things, so I like to toast my white beans, leaving them crisp on the edges, before adding them to salads.


The real genius here (and I will admit I borrowed it from this site, who borrowed it from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), is the honey-harissa dressing. You need some honey-harissa dressing in your life folks. Think of all the things it can brighten up: salads, boring old chicken, rice pilafs, etc. I recommend you make the dressing according to taste, rather than following the recipe exactly, since it will depend on how spicy your harissa is and how mild your honey is. Happy harissa hunting and stay tuned for some holiday cookie recipes soon!

P.S. You would think after a year and a half of living in Algeria I would have a harissa recipe for you. But alas, like most other Algerians I buy my harissa from a vendor (my preferred guy in right near the date section at the back of Premier Mai). However, I'm hoping we'll learn when the harissa peppers come back into season in the spring.


Freekia, Squash, and Apple Salad with Honey-Harissa Dressing
There are several ingredients and steps here, but really, everything comes together very quickly once you get going. You could even chop and prep the vegetables a day or two before to help expedite things. This is a nice one-bowl weeknight dinner this time of year.

1 cup freekia (or farro, wheatberries, etc)
1/2 teaspoon each allspice and nutmeg
1/4 of a red onion, minced
juice of 1 lemon
750 grams of peeled and diced butternut squash or pumpkin
1 small apple
4 sprigs of mint
1 cup of white beans
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
olive oil, salt
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon harissa* (depending on how spicy yours is, if you don't have harissa, Sriracha sauce is a great substitute)

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place the minced onion in a small bowl and add the lemon juice to cover. Let the onion sit while you do the following steps.
2. Heat some olive oil in a small pot. Add the freekia, allspice, and nutmeg and saute gently until fragrant. Add a large pinch of salt and 2 1/4 cups water. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and let simmer for 30 minutes, or until puffed and water is absorbed. (For farro or wheatberries, check package directions for cooking time and water ratio).
3. Toss the squash with olive oil and salt and roast on a foil-lined baking sheet until tender and browned on the edges. About 20-30 minutes.
4.  Heat some olive oil (if you have it, duck fat or bacon fat also work nicely here) in a pan, enough to thickly coat the bottom of the pan. When the pan is nice and hot, add the white beans and cook until nicely browned on both sides. Set aside.
5. Finely dice the apple, set aside.
6. Drain the lemon juice from the onions into a small bowl. Add 1/3 a cup olive oil, the honey and harissa to the lemon juice. Whisk together the dressing and taste for seasoning - you may need more honey or more harissa. The dressing should be thick.
7. Fold the mint and 1 tablespoon of the dressing into the freekia. Spread the freekia on a platter. Scatter the white beans, apple, and squash over the salad. Scatter the goat cheese over the salad. Drizzle the remaining the dressing over the salad. Serve.

* Sur La Table and other specialty food stores sell a decent version of jarred harissa.

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