Chewy Dried Fig & Apricot Spinach Salad with 3 ingredient dressing!

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I feel like I'm cheating when I use any other dried fruit besides dates.  Dates are a staple in any of my salads because I love the chewy sweet texture it adds.  I'm sorry dates, figs and apricots are the stars today.  Dried figs are so great because the little seeds in the middle add the perfect little crunch to the chewy texture.  This salad literally took a few minutes to put together and was so filling and perfect.  

For the past few years I have been making my own fig jam using a recipe my mother in law and her friends use.  I've been told it's the best some have ever tasted.   For a while I even worked on mass producing it because EVERYONE loved it so much.  I kind of felt like I was doing a diservice to the public by not manufacturing it.  It's still in the works but with everything going on it's not high on the priority list.  So I used a teaspoon of the fig jam in my recipe but feel free to use any jam (doesn't have to be fig).  Make sure to shake the dressing real well so all the ingredients emulsify together.  

Refreshing Sumac Salmon Kale Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

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Recently, my husband and I have been listening to a lot of podcasts and watching documentaries about health and diet.  The concept that food is medicine seems so revolutionary and yet so simple at the same time.  I recommend everyone watch the documentary “Forks over Knives” and read the book or watch on Youtube “The China Study”.  Whole food plant based diets are linked to complete decrease in cancer and cures to autoimmune diseases.


I can go on and on about this documentary but I’ll just let you watch it.  Just know that I’ll be eating a lot more vegetables and salmon and a lot less meat and I hope I can inspire you to do the same! Enter Salmon kale salad with Tahini Sesame Vinaigrette and Pickled Turnips into my life and in my belly. 

Recently, I went to a restaurant in LA called Fundamental LA and they had an amazing Salmon Kale salad with pickled turnip and a ginger vinaigrette.   You know how super giddy I get when I see anything Middle Eastern in my cuisine.  That was me when my salad came out with pink pickles on top.  The pickled turnips are so nostalgic of Syria and the Middle East because they’re consumed all the time!  Mainly in a falafel sandwich or with certain entrees but we like to even eat them solo as a crunchy snack.  I call them the Middle Eastern pickle because that’s exactly what they are.   Pink pickles. 

I’m working on a separate post on how to make pickled turnips because there is a natural trick to achieve that color and because they're just that good.  So stay tuned!  In the meantime, you can find pink pickles at any ethnic Middle Eastern supermarket. 

The addition of fresh mint and thai basil leaves really make this salad such a burst of amazing flavors.  Combine that with the tahini dressing and the sumac salmon and then top it off with crunchy pink pickles and we got ourselves a winner salad. 

Freekah Kale Salad

In the Middle East and growing up we never consumed Freekah in a salad.  I paired it with honey roasted sweet potatos and kale and it was perfect.  So filling, healthy and the right amount of sweetness and smokiness. 

Freekay, Freek, Freekah is an ancient whole grain that is harvested when it's still young and green, then it's roasted and rubbed to create a unique smokey flavor.  Across the Middle East freekah is prepared usually with lamb or chicken or as a soup (which I love and thinking about making it tonight!).  Freekah has been around for centuries but Oprah featured it on an episode in 2010 and since then it's become more popular.  

The freekah process was actually discovered by accident almost four thousand years ago in the Middle East, most sources agree.  The story is a group of villagers were trying to protect their wheat crop from an enemy attack so they harvested the unripe grain.  The enemy still set the crop on fire but because of the moisture inherent in the green kernel only the dryer outer shells were charred.  The grains were then rubbed together, hence the name "freekah" which means "to be rubbed", and the shells were removed.  The wheat was saved and a new grain smokey grain was discovered.  

The superfood grain is also mentioned the Old Testament.  In book Leveticus Chapter 2 verse 14, the verse says "when you bring a meal offering of the first grain to the Lord you shall bring your first grain meal offering from "barley" as soon as it ripens parched over the fire, kernels full in their husks "ground into" coarse meal.  

Freakah is packed with fiber, more than twice the amount of quinoa and three times the amount of brown rice!  It's also high in iron and a good amount of protein, a true super food.  There is an Australian study (read it here) that shows that because the freekah is harvested young it retains more of the fiber, proteins and minerals than mature wheat.   

It used to be hard to find freekah in the local supermarkets and my mom would have to wait until someone was traveling from the Middle East to bring some back with them.  So eating freakah when I was young was always special.  Luckily, I can find it at Whole Foods now but my mother in law does bring me some whenever she visits because it seems the grain from the Middle East is larger and greener.  

Because the freakah is roasted there are sometimes burnt pieces that are dangerous because they become so hard they can crack a tooth.  Although the freekah cooks in roughly 20 mins the most time consuming part used to be sorting through each freakah to remove the burnt pieces.  My grandmother and aunts would make a morning get together out of it.  They would get the kids together, drink tea, catch up and sort through their freekah.  Nowadays, the freekah I buy from the supermarket is already sorted through but out of habit I still do a quick sorting through just to make sure no one will break their teeth eating my freekah.  

Freekah is sold in two kinds;  whole and cracked.  Cracked is basically whole freekah broken down even further.  Whole freekah takes a little bit longer to cook and has a slightly different texture.  It takes about 35-40 minutes while cracked freekah takes about 15- 20 minutes.   There are different ways to make it too; some cook it like they do pasta, boiling it in water or stock and discarding the excess liquid.  While others cook it until all the liquid is absorbed.  I cook it 1 cup of freekah to 2 1/4 cup of stock for about 20 minutes.   

The BEST CREAMY Tahini Salad of ever!

So remember I said I come from a family of traditions... well, this is one of them!  My family goes all out for Sunday brunch with all the usual Middle Eastern suspects; jams, cheeses, fava bean salad (ful mdamas), chickpea yogurt dish (tisi'ya// fetay), eggs, walnut stuffed pickled eggplants (makdoos), olives, and pita bread galore.  I remember my dad would always cut the pita bread into half circles and make us fava bean salad pita sandwiches drizzled with yogurt (so. friggin. good btw).  So when my mom would make breakfast, she would make this tahini salad and as a separate brunch dish she would make the fava bean salad which is called Ful.  The ful dish is made up of basically this tahini salad plus boiled fava beans and more olive oil.   My siblings and I never knew the name of this particular tahini salad so we would always beg my mom to make it and refer to it as, the ful without the ful salad.  

So I present to you the "ful without the ful salad".   There was a period where I would eat this every single day.  The way the tahini lemon sauce marrys the crunch cucumber and juicy tomatoes is just out of this world.  

I can eat this salad on its own but its also great served with chicken kabobs or lamp chops or really anything. 

This dressing is everything.  Make some and store for later! 

This dressing is everything.  Make some and store for later! 

It's important to toss the salad because you want all the flavors to combine with the tomatoes.  You want the onions to release their flavors as well.  I've been trying to stay away from consuming too much bread (very difficult because bread is def one of my weaknesses) so I eat this salad as is, but it's actually good with warm pita bread.  Feel free to add more or less of whatever you like.  My sister loves cucumbers so she usually adds way more cucumbers, I like it more lemony so I'll add more lemon.  Don't be afraid to adjust to your liking!