[Buckwheat and Gingerbread Salad]
Buckwheat (sarrasin in French) has always occupied a very special place in the “cereal” section of my heart — no doubt because of the fabulous galettes de sarrasin (savory crepes) we used to eat in Brittany.
It is a cereal that’s seldom used in France (except in its flour form for said galettes), possibly because its alternate name blé noir (black wheat) makes it sound like a not-so-royal counterpart to its blond cousin (although wheat and buckwheat are in fact botanically unrelated). And well, you know me, I am tender-hearted, and I am always happy to give disaffectioned foods their rightful place in the sun.
I first made this salad a little while ago, when summer had not yet abandoned us to the throes of gloomy weather, and brought it to a delightful picnic on the banks of the Seine with my sister and a few friends of ours. It seemed to me that the earthy taste of buckwheat (which is, admittedly, rather strong and probably not the easiest to appreciate) would be well complemented by a little sweetness and some spices. I happened to have delicious pain d’épice (the French gingerbread) and a knob of ginger on hand, and thought they would work well. I also added a variety of diced vegetables, to add color and crunch to the soft buckwheat grains.
The salad was much appreciated by my picnic companions, with its intriguing yet very pleasant flavors. I kept it in the back of my mind until just recently, when it occurred to me (earthy flavors? warm spices?) that this was an ideal fall salad as well : I whipped up another batch to similarly satisfying results, and served it slightly warm this time, to make up for the cooler weather.
Salade de Sarrasin au Pain d’Epice
– 250 g buckwheat grains (note : it can usually be found in organic grocery stores)
– 1 young, slender leek, trimmed and diced
– 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
– half a cucumber, diced
– 2 small tomatoes, diced
– a thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and diced finely
– 100g pain d’épice (substitute another kind of gingerbread), diced
– 1 Tbsp cherry tomato jam (substitute another kind of tart and sweet preserve)
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 4 handfuls of rucola (a.k.a rocket salad or arugula), washed and drained
Cook the buckwheat in salted water, according to package instructions. Make sure you cook it al dente, as overcooking will make it mushy. Let cool on the counter for about ten minutes. In the meantime, prep the vegetables and pain d’épice as indicated in the ingredients list.
In a medium salad bowl, whisk together the tomato jam, the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Add in the buckwheat, the vegetables and the pain d’épice, and toss lightly to coat, making sure the ingredients are nicely blended.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, and preferably overnight. Serve cold, at room temperature or slightly warm, ladling the salad in pretty glasses or bowls, and eat with a spoon.