Today is the first day I can really say it feels like spring. We have been waiting a long time for it, but I don't feel bitter that it's taken so long. I would not appreciate the sun, clear skies, fresh air, longer days, and the buzz of activity on the streets as much if I had not had the chance to miss it.
That is why I love living with four distinct seasons. They each bring their own charm and a welcome change in lifestyle routines. My body and mind tell me what they need, and skin care, exercise, and cooking routines are adjusted. The weather is still fickle at this point, but soon, once warmer spring days really set in, I know I will be craving lighter, cooler dishes to mirror the fresh air and balance the warmth outside.
I am anticipating getting my hands on some local asparagus soon, but in the meantime, I haven't quite been able to let go of roasting vegetables and making warmly-spiced dishes. This substantial and flavorful roasted broccoli salad with smoky chutney is one of those dishes. The chutney is smoky from paprika and cumin, a little spicy (though you can control the heat by limiting the amount of chili), and sharp and verdant from the lemon and fresh herbs. The broccoli is mixed with the chutney and roasted before being added to the salad. Spelt is tossed with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette which balances out the smoky chutney-roasted broccoli.
This salad is best served immediately. Leftovers are good, but you'll want to stir in more chutney or vinaigrette after reheating because the grains soak up the liquid.
Spelt, also known as dinkel in Europe, cooks up to be chewy and nutty in flavor. It is a cousin to wheat and isn't suitable for those with a gluten-intolerance, but many people with a wheat sensitivity are able to tolerate spelt.
If you don't love spelt or cannot find it, you can substitute any grain here: quinoa, barley, brown or black rice, etc.
Roasted Broccoli & Spelt Salad with Smoky Cilantro Chutney
Serves 6-8 as a side
Notes: If spelt isn't your thing you can substitute any grain such as quinoa, barley, brown or black rice, etc.
1 1/4 cup spelt (soaked overnight/8-12 hours)
1 large head broccoli (~ 1 pound or 1/2 kilo)
Smoky cilantro chutney (recipe below)
Green olive and apricot vinaigrette (recipe below)
1/2 cup slivered or flaked almonds, toasted
Feta, to taste
Preheat oven to 425° F/218° C
Drain and rinse spelt. In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil, add spelt, and boil uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until tender. While the spelt cooks prepare the green olive and apricot vinaigrette in the bottom of a large bowl (recipe below). Drain the spelt and immediately stir it into the vinaigrette.
Prepare the broccoli. Cut into small florets and thinly slice the tender part of the stem. In a medium bowl, toss the broccoli with half of the smoky cilantro chutney (recipe below).
Roast chutney-coated broccoli on a large baking sheet (lined with aluminum foil for easier clean-up) for 10-12 minutes, just until tender.
Add broccoli, crumbled feta, and almonds to spelt and gently stir to combine. Taste and add more chutney, if desired.
Smoky Cilantro Chutney
Handful fresh mint
Handful fresh cilantro
1 red chili (1/2 if you'd prefer less spice or few pinches of red pepper flakes)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 wedge preserved lemon (1 tsp. chopped), or juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. honey
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. water
Pinch of salt
Blend all ingredients in a small food processor until smooth.
Green Olive and Apricot Vinaigrette
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green olives, quartered lengthwise
12 dried apricots, thinly sliced
Juice from 1 1/2 lemons
1 tsp. apricot jam (or honey)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients to the bottom of a large bowl, and mix well to combine.