Molise trip: ancient wheat salad

IMG_8353I recently came back from a study trip in Molise with my university. Now, most people will think where in the heck is that? Molise is a very small region in the center-south of Italy, right above Puglia (the heel of Italy). I went in a group of 15 for one week, we visited many producers, farmers, foragers, bakers, all of them producing food on a small-scale and according (more or less) to slow food philosophy, so most of them were all organic, growing as sustainably as possible, using local and old varieties (no hybrid seeds from Monsanto!), supporting local communities and so on. Molise is a wonderful region, I don’t think I would have gone there by myself because most people in Italy don’t even acknowledge it as part of the Italian territory but it truly has lots to discover from. Their gastronomy is similar to the mediterranean diet of many southern regions, but of course with some differences…lots of bitter greens (they call them “garden greens”), olive oil, fish etc. We discovered many new recipes and like most southern cuisines it also was mainly a “poor” diet, meaning that most recipes call for leftovers, many plant foods, grains etc. Nonetheless, we also visited a cheese producer (specialized in CacioCavallo) and also the fish port in Termoli.
It was a great trip, thanks to the group of people and mainly to the wonderful people we met. It is one thing to study about food on the books and all the issues/challenges we face today, and another thing to actually visit and talk to people really helping our planet growing food in a certain way, without following the “flow” of modern agriculture and going against today’s lobbying interests.

I left with an empty suitcase because I knew I would be bringing back food from the trip (and also to stay light since we were sleeping in a different place every night!). By the end of the week I had gathered 6 liters of extra virgin olive oil, ancient grains (wheat, barley, spelt), corn flour, hemp flour, pastas, tomato cans…

We would visit many farms or family run businesses and part of the learning was also eating their food prepared by them… it’s understandable we all came back weighting a few more kilos than before…but that’s ok, that’s what diets are for. 🙂

So, last weekend I prepared a dish we had on the trip, using this ancient wheat variety I brought back from this farm owned by Modesto Petacciato. To be honest, I had thought of planting it in our garden, but my mom saw the bag in the counter and decided to cook it; it’s ok, I brought plenty back so there’s more to use as seeds 😉
I made a salad with the wheat and fava beans (aka broadbeans, still in season here) and brought it over to friends for dinner.

•INGREDIENTS• (for 4-6 as side)
→200 gr wheat berries (or use farro, barley..), soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight
→200 gr fresh fava beans, shelled
→large bunch of mint
→1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
→1 big spring onion
→juice of 1/2 lemon
→extra virgin olive oil
→salt & pepper

Drain the soaked wheat and cook in a big pot of salted water until done but still crunchy, drain and let cool. In the meantime toast the seeds, chop the onion, shell the fresh fava beans and if necessary (if they’re really big) take also the outer layer off, it’s a time-consuming job but it will be well appreciated.
Mix the wheat berries, favas, chopped onion, chopped toasted seeds, chopped mint. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil (ratio 1:2), salt and pepper.
It will keep in fridge for couple days after too.

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