home cooked dinners by the season

Ancient Grains, Super Tasters and Yin and Yang – Kamut, Almond and Kale Salad

Ancient Grains, Super Tasters and Yin and Yang – Kamut, Almond and Kale Salad

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Kamut is one of the grains I have been experimenting with in green salads. The inspiration came from a salad I ate at the Whale Wins – Renee Erickson’s Seattle restaurant.

Pronounced “kah-moot”, kamut is an ancient grain with origins in Egypt. It’s a high protein wheat that when cooked has a firm, pleasantly chewy texture that gives a substantial quality to the greens in a salad. It also has a delicious nutty flavor.

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Might I add it can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, ready at a moment’s notice to grace your salad. It is cooked similar to rice, but it takes longer and all of the water doesn’t necessarily get absorbed in the cooking process. Cooking time tends to be an hour – and that is just to get it to the stage where it is still a bit crunchy how I like it -so plan ahead. The grains can be soaked in water the night before to cut down on the cooking time.

I know you’ve heard enough about kale but the thinly sliced Tuscan kale leaves (that are more thin and flat than the curly kale) are still my choice for this salad.

My husband and I disagree about kale. I love it and he tolerates it. No matter how much I may finesse a recipe with kale, when he takes a bite he reluctantly chews it and says in as positive a tone as he can muster – “it’s okay” – code for I don’t like it.

I respect Brad’s opinion because he is what I call a super taster, but on this particular ingredient our paths diverge. I like the flavor, texture and the fact that kale is healthy. I think the reason he is lukewarm about kale is that for a super taster it’s flavor can be too intense and seem bitter. He likens it to eating grass.

So for those of you like Brad, I recommend substituting half of the kale with mixed baby salad greens or thinly sliced Romaine lettuce – it will entice types like him to eat this salad more enthusiastically. Or just substitute all of the kale.

Roasting whole unsalted almonds and just roughly chopping them gives the same kind of texture quality for the salad that the grain does. I’ve thrown in my favorite Gorgonzola cheese and chopped apples, but crumbled goat cheese or long shaves of Parmesan are good choices – with big flavor being the goal to offset the grain and almonds.  Blueberries, pears or quartered fresh figs are other ideas for the apples, if you prefer.

Don’t pass on making the poppyseed lemon vinaigrette with fresh lemon zest and a little plain Greek-style yogurt, however tempting it may be to use a store-bought dressing. It’s mild, but a player in complimenting the bigger components of the salad.

About super tasters. I have three in my life, my husband, my daughter Andrea and my dear friend and long ago catering assistant Kelly. Super tasters have more taste buds on their tongue than the average person. The average person being me.

On a positive note, my super tasters help me in my recipes with things like salt and having the correct amount of an herb. But honestly it’s also a little annoying. I’m not sure if I am secretly jealous of their ability or if I just get frustrated when I think a recipe is just right only to have them say “something is missing or “it needs a little more of this”.

At any rate, I love them and appreciate the yin they are to my yang.

Ancient Grains, Super Tasters and Yin and Yang - Kamut, Almond and Kale Salad
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ cup kamut
  • ½ to ⅔ cup whole unsalted almonds
  • 8 cups thinly sliced Tuscan kale leaves* or baby spring salad mix or combination
  • Poppy Seed Lemon VInaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 crisp apple, chopped
Instructions
  1. Bring a saucepan with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil; add kamut, stir and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the texture of the grain is to your liking, approximately one hour for a slightly crunchy texture (which I prefer). Drain and allow cooling to room temperature. If you are using them at a later time, refrigerate.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roast almonds until fragrant and the skins have darkened but are not too brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cooling to room temperature. Coarsely chop.
  3. Toss kale with vinaigrette. Allow sitting a few minutes then add kamut, almonds, Gorgonzola and apples and toss again.
Notes
For the Tuscan kale leaves, be sure to remove the center rib from each leaf either by folding the leaf in half and cutting it out or pinching it out with your fingers.

Poppy Seed Lemon Vinaigrette
 
Serves: ½ cup
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey, agave nectar or sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons Greek-style plain yogurt (optional – if omitted substitute the same amount in olive oil)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together vinegar, poppy seeds, mustard, honey and lemon zest until smooth; while whisking add olive oil. Whisk in yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

 


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