Freekeh is a traditional whole grain from the Middle East and Northeastern Africa. It is wheat that is harvested early (when still green), and then sun-dried, flame-roasted, and rubbed. This process lends a uniquely nutty, smokey flavor to the grain, making it a wonderfully sturdy base for deeply roasted vegetables and richer gamier meats, like lamb, goat, or duck. Furthermore, it is packed with both protein and fiber, and is relatively low on the glycemic index.
Purchasing Notes: Though freekeh is relatively new to the North American market, there are several brands out there. I highly recommend Canaan Organic Fair-trade Freekeh, which you can buy online or at certain specialty markets. Bob’s Red Mill, Ziyad, and Mid East are some other more commonly found brands. Check your local health food store or Middle Eastern market, if you have one. It will be packaged either as whole grain or “cracked,” meaning broken up into smaller bits. The whole grain version, which is chewier and somewhat similar to bulgar wheat, cooks in about 35-45 minutes. The cracked version, which comes out lighter and fluffier, cooks in about 15-20 minutes.
A Hearty Freekeh Grain Bowl with Roasted Veggies
This particular recipe is a grain bowl of sorts, but transcends the category with its deep, earthy, and smoky (almost meaty) heartiness. The freekeh is topped with crispy pan-fried mushrooms, roasted broccolini, withered kale greens, and warm bursting cherry tomatoes, then drizzled with a creamy lemon-tahini sauce. If you haven’t introduced freekeh into your life yet, this is a great start.
Makes 4 servings
Takes 1 hour
Serve: In bowls with a generous serving of freekeh on the bottom, topped with the vegetables, drizzled with the lemon-tahini sauce. Add plenty of chopped herbs like chives, parsley, or cilantro (optional).
*Because the size of the grains can vary from brand to brand, it is best to follow the instructions on the package -- but as a general rule of thumb, the ratio is 1 cup of freekeh to 2 1/2 cups water, plus 1 teaspoon salt. I always rinse freekeh well before cooking, and I like to briefly sauté the grains with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper before adding the water. I find this brings out the nutty, smokiness of the grain even more. But you can skip this step and simply simmer the grain with water and salt according to the package instructions until the water is absorbed or the grain is fully cooked — whichever comes first (some brands indicate cooking until absorbed and some require straining out excess water, like pasta).