This salad is something I’ve been meaning to share with you guys for a while now.
I first had it two summers ago when I was staying in a sleepy little beach town in the south of Sweden and popped into a café during a rare afternoon to myself. I liked the salad so much that I went back the next day, had it again, and wrote down the list of ingredients.
I do love a good grain salad, and I think this one is perfect for this time of year, when most of us would rather not be spending much time in the kitchen. There isn’t too much chopping involved, and there are several shortcuts you can take along the way.
Look for tiny cherry tomatoes that don’t need to be sliced in half. Buy pitted olives. Crumble the feta with your hands as opposed to cubing it up. Just roughly chop the pickles, and only if you want to – they’re already pretty small. Cook two or three times as much grain as you need, and freeze the extras for future kitchen shortcuts.
The salad that was my inspiration had pearl onions, roasted whole to a beautiful caramelly brown. When I set out to recreate the dish, I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to slip silvery skins from tiny onions while keeping them intact. Unless you have copious amounts of free time and genuinely nothing better to do, don’t bother. Instead, chop a red or yellow onion into bite sized chunks and roast that. Or, slice your onion into thick slabs and throw it on the grill. Or, caramelize the onion in a pan, stirring only occasionally, while you’re cooking the spelt. Or skip the cooked onion altogether and enjoy the fiery bite of it raw.
Between the salty feta, olives, and zippy pickles, not much of a dressing is needed here as the ingredients pack a lot of flavour. I’ve kept it simple with a glug of good olive oil, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a handful of fresh dill.
The main thing is to not put too much effort into bringing this together. Get outside and enjoy your summer!
So what’s so super about spelt? This ancient grain is related to modern-day wheat, but it has more protein, and a different blend of proteins than conventional wheat that is easily digestible and can often be tolerated by wheat-sensitive individuals. Spelt does, however, contain gluten, so it is not an option for those with celiac disease. Spelt is rich in fiber, a complex of B-vitamins, phytonutrients, and important minerals such as iron. Like most whole grains, spelt contains a noteworthy amount of folate, magnesium, selenium, vitamin B2, niacin, thiamin, copper, vitamin E and A.
- 1 cup uncooked spelt berries or pearled spelt
- 250g pearl onions (about 20) OR one yellow or red onion chopped into bite sized pieces
- ½ a small red onion, finely diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup (heaping) cornichon pickles, roughly chopped
- ½ cup black and / or green olives, roughly chopped
- 150 - 200g feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
- 2-4 Tbsp lemon juice (squeezed from one lemon)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
- freshly ground pepper
- Cook spelt berries according to package directions. I find 1 part spelt to 1.5 parts water simmered for about 30-40 minutes usually does the trick, but your brand might be different. Once the spelt is cooked, set aside to cool slightly.
- While the spelt is cooking, roast your onions.
- Heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
- Toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pop them in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes, until they are soft and golden brown.
- Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl combine cooked spelt, roasted onions, raw onions, pickles, olives, cherry tomatoes, and feta.
- Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over top of everything, sprinkle with fresh dill, and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. You likely won't need any salt, but you may want a bit of freshly ground pepper.
- Enjoy cold, or at room temperature.