Recipes

Spelt Salad with Asparagus and Quick-Pickled Rhubarb

Hearty grains get a vibrant shock of acidity and color in this celebration of springtime produce.

  • Serves

    6

  • Cook

    40 minutes

PHOTO: MATT TAYLOR-GROSS • FOOD STYLING: JESSIE YUCHEN

By Alex Testere


Published on June 3, 2024

Rhubarb has a pleasant sharpness on its own, but the acidity and tang can vary dramatically from stalk to stalk. Pickling in vinegar might seem aggressive for an already tart vegetable, but the result is quite balanced, and makes for a vibrant addition (in both flavor and hue) to this hearty spelt grain bowl. Inspired by edible garden perennials, which grow year after year with little maintenance, the salad also features asparagus—briefly blanched to capture its sweetness—and chives, which are the first plants to poke up in my raised beds each spring.

The salad is best served as soon as it’s assembled, but you can make it last a little longer by leaving out the lettuce, which is quick to wilt, until you’re ready to serve. Without the lettuce, the dressed spelt berry mixture can keep quite well in the fridge for a few days, and makes for a satisfying lunchtime meal prep. Just allow it to sit out for a few minutes to take the chill off before adding fresh lettuce and serving. Ricotta salata strikes the ideal balance of salty and milky here, but another salty semi-firm cheese like Pecorino Romano or feta could work in a pinch. 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 8 oz. rhubarb stalks, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 12 oz. asparagus, tough ends removed and stalks sliced on the bias into 1-in. pieces (leave tips whole)
  • 1½ cups spelt berries
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, leaves separated and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small bunch chives, sliced into 1-in. pieces
  • 1 medium fennel bulb (about 6 oz.), trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. small red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. ricotta salata, shaved

Instructions

Step 1

To a small bowl, add the vinegar, honey, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Stir to dissolve the honey and salt, then stir in the rhubarb and set aside to pickle.

Step 2

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Using a spider or strainer, transfer to an ice bath, reserving the boiling water, and allow to sit for 1–2 minutes. Drain the asparagus and set aside.

Step 3

Bring the water back to a boil. Add the spelt, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the spelt is tender but still al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse the spelt under cold water, then set aside.

Step 4

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, shallot, and ¼ cup of the rhubarb pickling liquid. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and if needed, more pickling liquid.

Step 5

In a large bowl, stir together the spelt and the dressing. Season to taste with more salt if needed. Add the lettuce, followed by the chives, fennel, radishes, ricotta salata, and pickled rhubarb, reserving a small amount of each ingredient for garnish. Toss well.

Step 6

Divide the salad among bowls, then top with the reserved ingredients and more black pepper. Serve immediately.

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