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How To Make The Ultimate Vegan Thanksgiving Side Dish

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Photo courtesy of Love & Salt
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Chef Michael Fiorelli, who formerly helmed the kitchens at the much-loved Terranea Resort, opened his new restaurant Love & Salt on Tuesday in Manhattan Beach. He brings to the Beach Cities his take on market-driven fare and house-made pastas. He was kind enough to share a wonderful salad that uses ancient grains for a delightful vegan side for your holiday table this Thanksgiving.

Though it does require making a few different grains separately, that's what Thanksgiving is all about—putting in some effort to help create a wonderful feast that everyone can enjoy. In addition to likely winning the best side award, you'll also get bonus points for the fun name that the entire table will dig: the Freekalicious Salad.

The name is derived from one of the more nuanced grains in the mix, freekeh. Freekeh is not only fun to say, but it's also packed with heaps of fiber and a wonderful nutty flavor. The salad also includes fregola, faro, black rice, and quinoa, all of which have become super popular on restaurant menus as of late, so you can take pride that your offering will be both on-trend and delicious. (You can read our primer on ancient grains here.)

Now, we realize that glancing at the process below might seem intimidating, but rest assured that most if it is as involved as cooking rice. You set it and forget it. But if it seems like too many grains, go ahead and just do a few. No one will know better. The main ideas here are using a few varied sizes, textures, and flavors of grains alongside the delicious herb oil and freshly toasted nuts.

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What we love about this recipe is that each of the grains is infused with different flavors during their cooking process—from shallot to garlic to onions—so that there are varying flavors that work along with the variety of textures that come from the toasted hazelnuts and sliced radishes. And since there'll be plenty of the herbaceous olive oil left over, you can use the morning after for leftover sandwiches, as a marinade for grilled meat and veggies, or to be tossed with greens and some vinegar for a simple salad to right your Thanksgiving wrongs.

These grains are readily available at your local Whole Foods, but if you can't seem to find fregola you can easily substitute Israeli cous cous or regular cous cous instead. Just have fun, and get freekeh with it.

Here's how it's done:

Freekalicious Salad

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup black rice
1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup freekeh
1/2cup red quinoa
1/2 cup fregola
Zest of one lemon
½ cup herbaceous olive oil (recipe follows)
¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (recipe follows)
2 radishes slices as thin as possible
¼ cup dried black currants
12 mint leaves
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

For the black rice

½ cup black rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves sliced thin
2 shallots sliced thin
2 cups water

In a small heavy bottom sauce pot, sweat garlic and shallots in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the rice and toast briefly, about two minutes. Cover with water and simmer until tender. Strain any remaining water or add additional water if necessary. Set rice aside to cool.

For the faro

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½ cup farro
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups water
½ Spanish onion fine diced

In a small heavy bottom sauce pot, sweat onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the farro and toast briefly, about two minutes. Cover with water and simmer until tender. Strain any remaining water or add additional water if necessary. Set farro aside to cool.

For the freekeh

½ cup freekeh
2 cups water

In a heavy bottom sauce pot bring freekeh and water to a simmer and continue to cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Set freekeh aside to cool.

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For the fregola

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fregola and cook until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Strain the fregola, toss in a tablespoon of olive oil and set aside to cool.

For the quinoa
1 table spoon olive oil
½ cup red quinoa
1 cup water

In a small pot with a fitting lid, heat olive oil until just shimmering. Add quinoa and toast, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Cover with water and simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes until water is evaporated. Remove from heat, cover with lid and allow to sit for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

For the toasted hazelnuts

½ cup raw hazelnuts with no skin

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Rough chop the hazelnuts and spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Place them in the oven for approximately 10-15 or until golden brown and aromatic. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Herbaceous olive oil (you will have extra to reserve for another use)

6 leaves finely chopped sage
1 bunch finely chopped basil
3 stalks finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup minced shallot
2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cups pure olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in a heavy bottom sauce pot on a low flame. Allow to come to barely a simmer for five minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.

To Plate

Once all of the grains, hazelnuts are cool, toss together with ½ cup of the herb oil, currants, lemon zest, mint and radishes. Reserve a few slices of radish and some mint leaves for garnish on top.