As the Season Turns, Savoring Spelt

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STORY AND IMAGES BY MEGAN GORDON

I return to the kitchen in the fall. Which isn’t to say that we’re too busy to cook during the summer months thanks to too much time gallivanting around the Northwest. Quite the opposite, in fact. We have an energetic toddler, and summer is our favorite time of year to walk down to the local beach with popsicles, fashion impromptu backyard picnic dinners from farmers market goodies, or make simple sandwiches to take out on the hiking trails.

Summer cooking always feels a bit more haphazard and thrown together, which I love, but there’s certainly something to be said for a season that welcomes you back indoors; a season that encourages you to start thinking about family meals, new traditions, even holidays. So as the squashes and hearty greens start popping back up in the markets, I know one thing for sure: the kitchen awaits.

A routine I reinvigorate each fall is preparing a few ingredients on the weekend to make weekday life easier. First up is cooking a pot of whole grains to turn into salads or fold into soups, stews, or even scrambles. Lately, I’ve been relying on spelt, an ancient grain related to wheat. It’s the pantry ingredient I lovingly call “the gateway grain.” Why? Spelt has a pleasant, nutty flavor and chewy texture, and, when ground into flour, bakes up beautifully into your favorite baked goods. Whole-grain spelt berries are a slow-cooking grain, so cooking them in advance is key — and if you can remember, soaking them overnight will save you some time, too.

So, as we dip our toes into the waters of this new season, I think you just may find that spelt is a great excuse to crack open the window and let in some of that cool autumn breeze while preheating the oven. The best of both worlds, no?

Megan Gordon is a writer, recipe developer, culinary educator and small business consultant. She’s the founder of Marge Granola, a company specializing in crazy delicious whole grain cereals. When not baking and writing, Megan can be found at the beach with her husband Sam and toddler son, Oliver.  

Spelt Berry Salad with Honey-Thyme Apples and Pecans

A colorful, flavor-packed salad boasting all the best this season has to offer, this is a great fall picnic or potluck candidate. If you can remember, soak the spelt berries overnight to speed up cook time; if you forget, you’ll simply want to let them cook an additional 15–20 minutes, until tender.

Serves: 4–6 | Start to Finish: 80 minutes

Dressing

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
generous pinch kosher salt

Salad

1 cup spelt berries, soaked overnight
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small apples, sliced into 1/2-inch wedges, then sliced further in thirds to make small chunks
kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan (about 3/4 cup)
Maldon or other flaky sea salt, for finishing

Recipe

In a medium saucepan, bring soaked spelt berries and 3 cups water to a hearty simmer. Reduce heat and cover, cooking until grains are tender yet still chewy and most of the liquid has evaporated, 45–60 minutes. If there is excess liquid after the spelt is finished cooking, strain it away. Remove from heat and cool (room temperature or slightly warm is ideal for this salad).

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add apples and pinch of salt. Cook, stirring until apples begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add honey and thyme and continue cooking until apples turn golden and become fragrant and tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile make the dressing: whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the cooled spelt berries, honeyed apples, parsley, basil, and pecans. Pour the dressing on top of the salad and fold to incorporate. Top with grated Parmesan. The salad is best served at room temperature, but will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

vegetarian

Pumpkin Spelt Loaf with Pepita Streusel

Whole-grain loaves can often be sturdy and squatty, but this fall beauty is almost stately in stature, with a light crumb and subtle kiss of spice. While I love grinding down pepitas to use in the batter, you can certainly use almond or hazelnut meal if you prefer.

Makes: One 9-inch loaf | Start to Finish: 65 minutes

Pepita Streusel

2 tablespoons muscovado or brown sugar
1/4 cup pepitas
3 tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons whole-spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed

Pumpkin Spelt Loaf

1 3/4 cups whole-spelt flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup pepitas, ground (or almond/hazelnut meal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more to grease loaf pan
2/3 cup turbinado or muscovado sugar
1 cup pumpkin or squash puree
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Recipe

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

Make the streusel: Combine the muscovado sugar with pepitas, oats, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, press the butter into the dry ingredients and mix together until the streusel comes together when squeezed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, ground pepitas, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Set aside.

Make the loaf: In another mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Fold in pumpkin puree. Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.

Gently fold in the flour mixture, being careful not to over mix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle generously with streusel topping. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing. The bread will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

vegetarian

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