Salmon with Grains and Greens

Salmon with Grains and Greens

Saturday could have turned out differently than it did.  One of my favorite poems is by Jane Kenyon, and it's called Otherwise.  She says , "I got out of bed/on two strong legs/it might have been/otherwise."  I always think of that when I'm complaining about something trivial or feeling sorry for myself.  Every morning of my life, I've gotten out of bed on two strong legs.  It might have been otherwise, and someday, it will be.

Reading the paper Saturday morning made me sad.  Swine flu and talk of a pandemic (could things get any scarier than that?) and the Washington State NINE BILLION DOLLAR shortfall that's forcing cuts in things like Basic Health and education.  It was one of those moments when the curtain is pulled back and I realize just how frail and fragile this life is.

On top of that, Yancey and I got in a fight and, for about an hour, it looked like we were going to spend his whole weekend home stewing about stupid @#$.  After I said something thoughtless, he hurt my feelings, and so on.  I wisely walked over to the hydrangea brush and trimmed it for 30 minutes without saying anything (VERY hard to do for an external processor).  By the way, why are hydrangea bushes so damn high maintenance?  I feel like the only work I ever do in our neglected yard is deadhead that stupid thing.  

Anyway, we made up, and the day ended with all four of us around the dinner table.  That's what I love about dinnertime. Whatever has gone before and whatever is about to come, we have that precious hour together.  It could have been otherwise.

Remember that Fear-Not Salmon from a couple days ago?  Technically, it was $8.00, but at Costco, of course we had to buy two fillets, so the whole package was $16.00.  So it was a salmon weekend at the MK household, and this is version 2.0.  

The most exciting thing about this post is the Syrian grain I used.  At PFI recently, I asked the longtime employee (I feel so bad I don't know his name, but he's very knowledgeable and kind) if they had another type of grain called farro.  He said they'd had a run on it recently and were out.  I told him that Orangette had recently featured a recipe for it.  Then I told him I had a food blog, and he said, "Well then, you've got to write about this."  My not-so-secret-hope is that now PFI has a run on freekeh (pronounced "freak").  

He explained the grain's history.  I'll butcher it here, but basically it evolved because hungry Syrians needed to pick their wheat while it was still green and unripe.  Then they cooked it over a big hot fire.  The green grain has little blackened bits throughout, and it does taste grilled--amazing.  Yancey said the house smelled like bacon while I was boiling it.  What better endorsement can you get?

Grilled Wheat

I cooked it in lots of boiling water just like I did the barley in this recipe.  Please don't bypass this recipe because you don't happen to have freekeh in the house.  That would be freaky.  I make it my business to know about food, and I just heard about grilled wheat last week.  You can use brown rice, barley, quinoa, bulgar, couscous, lentils.  The possibilities are endless.

I will warn you, however, that I'm not done singing the praises of this stuff.  And it will be featured in a cold salad tomorrow. If farro had been in stock, it could have been otherwise.

Salmon with Grains and Greens
(serves 4)
1.5 lb. salmon fillet, coated with 2 ts. olive oil, salt, pepper, and handful of fresh, finely chopped herbs (I used chives and oregano)
3 c. freekeh or other grain (you will have leftovers)
4 Tb. créme fraiche
2 Tb.chopped capers
2 Tb. chopped preserved lemons (or lemon zest)
4 c. washed greens (arugula, spinach, romaine, etc.)

For dressing:
Juice of one lemon
1 Tb. honey
1 Tb. dijon mustard
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper

To cook freekeh:  Bring lots of salted water to boil in one of your biggest stockpots.  Pour in grain, and let it boil gently for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This is a a huge investment of time (in my book), so do at least 3 cups so you can have some leftovers.  Add more water throughout if needed.  When it's done, drain thoroughly and coat with a little bit of olive oil so it doesn't stick together.

For dressing:  Combine all ingredients except olive oil.  Whisk together, then whisk in oil to emulsify.

For salmon:  (same method as before!) Preheat oven to 450.  Put herbed and oiled fillet on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and cook for 8-10 minutes.

To assemble:  Line four pasta bowls with greens.  Mound one cup of warm grain over the grains, then top with a piece of the salmon fillet.  Pour a little dressing over everything, then garnish with the chopped capers and preserved lemons and a dallop of créme fraiche.  You will not wish for anything to be otherwise.