Get Your Freekeh on

I love carbs. For me, a properly plated dinner has a protein-rich food — from animal or plant sources, doesn’t matter — veggies and a grain food of some type. When my now-husband and I were dating, he credited me with introducing him to couscous, favoring the pearled, Israeli-style over our usual go-to grain of white or brown rice. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with other grains. 

Several months ago, I attended a trade show and sampled a dish that contained freekeh, a whole grain made from immature wheat grains. Freekeh — pronounced FREE-kah — is harvested while the grain is still green, maximizing its fiber, protein and nutritional profile. It’s a hearty grain with a similar toothiness to farro, a close cousin to barley, and when it cooks it smells like bacon (yes, really!). But rest assured that freekeh is completely vegan, but not gluten-free, since it is made from wheat. 

Freekeh cooks similar to quinoa in that it requires about 2½ cups water for every 1 cup of grain. It is not quite as mainstream as quinoa, and finding it at your grocery store might be difficult. I went to three different stores before ultimately finding it at a local natural foods grocery chain. You also can order it online.  

I recently brought a freekeh salad to a neighborhood potluck, and everyone was asking for the recipe. You can use any combination of vegetables you like — I just used what happened to be on-hand when I was pulling this salad together. This makes for delicious leftovers — I placed a sliced, hardboiled egg on top for a complete lunch the next day!


Freekeh Salad  

Serves four 

Ingredients 

  • 2½ cups water or stock 
  • 1 cup freekeh 
  • ¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano or other sharp cheese 
  • 2 chopped Roma tomatoes 
  • ½ chopped red onion 
  • ½ cup frozen peas & carrots, thawed (I’ve also used fresh, uncooked broccoli, which has more crunch) 

Instructions 

  1. Place water or stock and freekeh in a medium saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil. Cover with lid and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. 
  2. While freekeh is cooking, place cheese, tomatoes, onions and peas & carrots (or other veggies of choice) in a bowl. 
  3. Add cooked freekeh to bowl. It’s OK if the freekeh is still hot — it will soften any raw veggies and slightly melt the cheese. 
  4. Toss well and serve either warm or chilled.  

 

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Elana Natker
Elana Natker, MS, RD, is a nutrition communications consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, and overseer of the Sage Nutrition Network. Her blog is at connectwithsage.com, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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