Triple Fennel and Spelt Salad

As I write this, there are two electricians in my apartment installing an oven. I almost have a kitchen. 

The last couple months have been really interesting, hauling my food processor, blender, and bags of groceries around to all of my friends’ houses to use their kitchens. So far, no one has complained, as for those who allowed me take over their space for a day were rewarded with steaming bowls of soup, bright and crunchy salads, and of course, that honkin’ birthday cake.

Luckily, I’ve had a stove for the last couple weeks, which has made life a lot saner around here. I even had friends for brunch yesterday – the first little gathering in our construction zone of a kitchen. It was cozy, even monumental for me to be cooking for loved ones again. And speaking of cooking for loved ones, I thought it was about time to create something for all of you, from my kitchen to yours, once again. It’s a combination of cooked and raw elements, which I appreciate as we transition into cooler months. I love the mix of grounding grains with crispy, raw veggies, and if you haven’t tried these two together before, I highly recommend it. In this case, I used chewy, nutty spelt kernels and three, count ’em three parts of the fennel plant – the bulb, seeds and flowers. Folded together with lots of lemon, briny black olives, and fresh tarragon, this salad makes for a tasty autumn meal.

Simply Spelt
The Danes are really into spelt. When I first moved to Copenhagen, it seemed as if I’d stepped into a wheat-free paradise. Over the past few years, spelt has seen a bourgeoning popularity in North America as well, as people are seeking out a wider variety of whole grains.

Many people seem to think that spelt is gluten-free, which it is not. In fact, spelt has more gluten than wheat does, so it is inappropriate for anyone with a gluten allergy or sensitivity. For those that cannot tolerate wheat however, spelt can often be a healthy alternative (this varies from person to person).
Spelt is an excellent source of manganese, which helps protect your cells from free radical damage, keeps your bones strong, maintains nerve health, and promotes the function of the thyroid gland. Spelt is also very high in fiber and contains a good amount of protein.

You can purchase spelt in its whole form, often called spelt “berries” or “kernels”, but spelt flour is also available as are products made with its flour, such as pasta. Spelt has a delicate, nutty flavour and when cooked like rice, its kernels are plump, chewy, and totally satisfying. Spelt is the perfect whole grain to use in salads because it holds its shape nicely and doesn’t get mushy.


When I was at the market the other day I found these fennel flowers, which I had never tried cooking with before. Little did I know that fennel pollen is a majorly trendy ingredient at the moment and you can purchase it at gourmet foods stores. I was happily surprised at the flavour of the flowers and the pollen that came out of them – licorice-y, sweet, but with a rounder and more complex taste than the bulb or seeds. If you cannot find fennel flowers, you can simply add minced fennel fronds, or leave them out altogether.

Triple Fennel and Spelt Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3/4 cup raw spelt
2 medium fennel bulbs
1 Tbsp. minced fennel flowers with their pollen
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
3 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon
15 kalamata olives, pitted
1 small red onions or shallot
sea salt
cracked black pepper
cold pressed olive oil to serve

Fennel marinade:
zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
1 tsp. honey (or maple syrup)
1 Tbsp. cold pressed olive oil
a couple pinches sea salt
cracked black pepper

Directions:
1. Begin by marinating the fennel and onion. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the fennel and onion into julienne strips, or any small, bite-sized shape you like. Add to the marinade and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 8 hours.
2. Rinse spelt kernels very well in a large pot or bowl, changing the water until it is relatively clear (2-4 times). If possible, let spelt soak in fresh water for up to 12 hours to improve digestive qualities. Drain spelt and place in a pot with 2 cups water. Add a few pinches of sea salt, cover, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook until tender, yet chewy (time varies depending on soaking time, but approximately 30-40 minutes). If there is any water left in the pot, simply drain out. If the water evaporates before the spelt is cooked, add a little at a time until it is. Let cool slightly, fluff with a fork and toss with marinated fennel.
3. Pit olives by squashing them with the flat side of a knife blade, and slice into small pieces. Add olives, fennel flowers, and tarragon, and fold to combine everything. Season to taste, serve and enjoy.

In the time it took me to write this post, the stove guys have come and gone. The apartment is quiet now, and as I sit admiring the latest installment in my almost-complete kitchen, a burst of relief and excitement fills my heart. I cannot wait to play here, learn here, and get this place dirty for years to come.
Now all I need is a freezer…

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

28 comments

  1. women dresses

    Begin by marinating the fennel and onion. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the fennel and onion into julienne strips, or any small, bite-sized shape you like. Add to the marinade and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 8 hours.

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  3. Debra Robertson

    Im impressed, I have to say. Very seldom do I discovered a blog thats both educational and entertaining, and let me tell you, youve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is outstanding; the matter is something that not many people are talking intelligently about. Im very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.
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  4. Restaurant in kuwait

    This sounds so good! Crisp and fresh, but still warming as the evenings get colder. I’m excited that you’ll have a new kitchen to cook from, it sounds pretty amazing! And at least you’ll get your oven before it really starts to get cold!

  5. Emma

    everyone has always told me that spelt contains LESS gluten than wheat, so I am surprised to hear the opposite. What about kamut? Are you able to comment on it’s relative gluten content (or any other grains like rye and barley?)

    Thanks!

  6. Jana

    gorgeous pics…I have been cooking spelt+pumpkin the last two weeks, so yummy+guess what? I cooked my first fennel (first time in my life ever!) few days ago too, preparing a fennel-safran-risotto…

    fennel/spices flowers:this spring I did use the wild garlic flowers/ later in the summer some (balcony-grown) coriander flowers for cooking and ….I was simply impressed by the result+aroma! great to read about your experience here too:-) tons of smiles+apple sunshine from tulipland!

  7. buckwheattobutter

    This looks delicious. I think grain salads are the best vehicle for a mix of raw and cooked ingredients and I am crazy for fennel! Lucky for me it grows wild all over the farm where I work. Can’t wait to try this. One question: Can you cook spelt the same way you cook pasta? Instead of the absorption method?

  8. growntocook

    When we renovated our kitchen a couple of years ago, we had the stove hooked up in the living room – fortunately, because I took a woodworking course and made the countertop and kitchen cabinets myself and it all took a loooong time.
    I like spelt a lot (and fortunately no one in our family has any allergies)and also make it into a salad (with tomatoes and dill: http://www.growntocook.com/?p=1342). This one sounds like a great alternative for the colder months!

  9. willowday

    It’s easy to note that I’m late on your “fan train” but, I am so glad I’ve arrived and bought a ticket! (yahoo: subscriber emails, right to my email.) I’ve discovered you this past year and am so very happy that I have for many reasons —- your wonderful recipes and photography are splendid. Your content is exactly what I want to know and I fear that I am one of those misled by the myth of spelt being gluten free, as well! I share the your situation (I think!) of being a North American transplanted in Scandinavia (Sweden) and have been talking about using spelt for years while I understood that it was relatively unused back home. Well done! I get so happy when seeing someone successfully following their passions. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Jacqui

    This sounds so good! Crisp and fresh, but still warming as the evenings get colder. I’m excited that you’ll have a new kitchen to cook from, it sounds pretty amazing! And at least you’ll get your oven before it really starts to get cold!

  11. sue

    I have just happened upon your blog for the first, and this is the first recipe I saw, and I love it. I can’t eat gluten so would sub the spelt for wholegrain rice or even quinoa, the flavours sound superb. I hope you enjoy creating new and exciting things to eat in your new kitchen, I intend to drop in on your blog daily, and will enjoy hearing about all the new and tasty delights you prepare. Thank you.

    Sue

  12. Jeanine

    I admire your cooking ambition… when I was renovating a kitchen it was all take out :).

    This looks so delicious, I love spelt flour but I’ve never cooked with the actual spelt berries. Can’t wait to try this!

  13. Ashley

    What a unique salad! I’m sure your friends are more than willing to help out, considering all the treats you leave behind. Congrats on the oven!

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