Proud meat eaters are discovering that the country’s most exciting chefs have become vegetable worshipers. “What’s the world coming to!”, the vanquished cry. Even avid carnivores such as Josh Ozersky, founder of Meatopia food festival, admits to being prejudiced against meatless cooking until he began to notice he and his gourmand friends were getting older and fatter and “tweezer food” was starting to look pretty good. Ozersky says all his doubts disappeared when he ate Tim Rattray’s (The Granary Cue & Brew, San Antonio) cauliflower risotto.
Ozerky’s was “knocked out” by what Rattray was doing with beef clod and lamb shoulder, but was shocked when his best dish turned out to be an all-vegetarian item that “carried the smoke and intensity and richness of good barbecue”. Read his article on the Evolution of a Carnivore from Beef to Beets in Food & Wine, entertaining and so true.
During the snout-to-tail fetish, charcuterie explosion and “unkillable” bacon mania, pioneering chefs like Eric Tucker at Millennium in San Francisco, and later, Jeremy Fox at Ubuntu in Napa – “were carving out, by sheer force of genius, a place for vegetarian, or even vegan, cooking as innovative and delicious as anything then happening in gastronomy”. The popularity of vegetable-focused restaurants such as Dirt Candy in New York, Vedge in Philadelphia, or Green Zebra in Chicago, is evidence that the dining public is evolving this way, too.
While all this was going on, home cooks, like myself, were listening, learning and, often times, buying tomes by Michael Pollen and other advocates of a plant-based diet and inspired cookbooks by vegetable gurus like Yotam Ottolenghi, London-based restaurateur (Nopi and Ottolenghi) and the author of three bestselling books; his fourth book, Plenty More, published this month, says he is still finding inspiration in everything from cauliflowers to courgettes after eight years as a columnist at The Guardian. Cauliflower is the new “it” vegetable, in case you hadn’t noticed.
We don’t strictly adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet, but often enjoy vegan and vegetarian dishes because they’re not only good-for-you, but they’re also delicious and, to quote Bryan Voltaggio, “vegetables are the one thing you can do anything with…they present limitless possibilities”. Faced with the realities of immortality as we have been, the fact that we may live longer is, as the saying goes, gravy. So, at least once or twice a week, we enjoy a day without meat – it’s not always on Monday, but Monday is just as good a day as any to nurture your temple.
Today’s salad is a cornucopia of vibrant colors and textures that is delicious to the eye and a party on your palate. Wholesome freekah and arugula are tossed with a bright citrus vinaigrette and topped with summer’s last heirloom tomatoes, chunks of Persian cucumber, mild red peppers, a few shavings of Castello aged Havarti and, for a playful twist and bit of sweetness, Pumpkin and Flaxseed granola bites, a new line of tasty snacks called Clean Snax from Melissa’s Produce.
About freekah: maybe you’ve seen freekah in Melissa’s Produce packages in the produce section or the bulk bins at your market, but weren’t sure how to use it. Freekeh is a highly nutritious whole grain of the Mediterranean which has four times the fiber as rice, more protein than most other grains and is low is carbohydrates and can be used in any recipe calling for rice or barley. The grain has a nutty, smoky flavor and crunchy texture due to its production process: freekeh starts as green heads of wheat, picked when they were still very immature, the wheat is parched, roasted to extract the seeds, smoked and then dried again.
Now let’s get to that freekah awesome salad! A comment on Facebook that I couldn’t resist sharing 🙂
- 1 cup cooked freekah*
- 8 ounces organic arugula
- 1 heirloom tomato
- 1 Persian cucumber
- 1/2 red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 ounce of Castello Aged Havarti shaved (optional)*
- 5 granola bites broken into half
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon citrus infused olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Kaffir lime vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Harissa
Cook 1 cup freekah according to package directions.* Set aside to cool. Use 1 cup for the salad, reserving the remainder for another use.
In a glass bowl, combine the freekah and arugula. Toss with vinaigrette. Divide between two plates.
Top with tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, shaved cheese and granola bites. Drizzle with more vinaigrette if desired.
*I always use less water than the directions call for because it doesn't seem to get absorbed in the cooking time indicated. Like brown rice, I use a ratio of 1 cup grain to 1.75 liquid.
*omit the cheese for a vegan salad
Oh, and these little Clean Snax granola bites from Melissa’s Produce are great with yogurt in the morning, breakfast on the run, in school lunches or as office snacks or afternoon pick-me-ups. They come in four flavors – Coconut, Almond, Cranberry and Pumpkin and, beginning with the Coconut, I’ve been enjoying these for breakfast and noshing on a few for energy before Pilates or yoga.