I love incorporating grains to vegetables salads, and since many of them pack a nice dose of protein as well as fiber, this can turn a simple salad into a whole meal. In this case the additional of beautiful shrimp make it even more protein-packed and special. I happen to like leaving the tails on the shrimp in dishes like this, but you can take them off if you don’t want to remove them at the table.
Spelt is a whole grain that been around since ancient and medieval times, but now it is only commonly grown in Europe. It fell out of favor in the 1900s, but now that whole grains are back in the spotlight, it’s becoming very popular again. It’s quite chewy and nutty, in large, fat rice-shaped grains. Some people who have wheat intolerance can enjoy spelt, but it is a member other wheat family, so it's not for people who have more serious wheat aversions. It’s usually soaked for several hours before cooking, which reduces the cooking time.
This is one of the very rare instances I will serve something in individual plates, because the way the salad is arranged is so pleasing, and tossing it together in a big serving bowl doesn’t do the ingredients justice. If you are thinking that your kids don’t eat beets, you are far from alone. But why don’t some kids like beets? When cooked they have a lovely silky texture, beautiful colors, and a natural sweetness. Which is why I keep trying, and why sometimes I make a salad that my husband and I are going to like and the kids can just work around what they don't want. That’s fair, right?
And of course you can substitute anything you like here, swapping in quinoa for the spelt, roasted asparagus for the beets, and so on. A bit of crumbled goat cheese or feta would also be delicious. It’s just nice to have a composed salad once in a while!
- 6 cups mesclun lettuce
- 1 cup spelt (cooked; see Note)
- 1 pound shrimp (jumbo, cooked)
- 6 baby beets (any colors, cooked, peeled, and sliced)
- 1 teaspoon thyme (fresh)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Divide the lettuce into four bowls. Distribute the cooked spelt, shrimp and sliced beets evenly over the lettuce in the bowls, then sprinkle evenly with the thyme leaves. Drizzle over the vinegar and olive oil, and serve.
Note: This will make extra cooked spelt, but it’s nice to have later in the week in pilafs, soups and stews. Soak 1 cup spelt grains in water to cover overnight. Drain the spelt.
Bring three cups of water or broth to a simmer in a medium-sized pot over medium high heat, add the drained spelt, and simmer for about 1 hour until the spelt is tender.