I had the opportunity to order through my CSA a couple of unusual and interesting whole grains: freekeh and farro (aka emmer wheat). Now, farro I was familiar with, but freekeh was a little bit of a mystery. I was definitely intrigued; they arrived a few weeks ago.
Turns out, freekeh is a pretty amazing grain. It’s known throughout the Arab world as farik, and has been around for a long time – it was recorded in an 13th century cookbook as farikiyya. Freekeh is young wheat or spelt that is roasted or smoked just before it reaches maturity. It looks a little like brown rice but bigger, though some say it looks like large green bulgur.
It is high in minerals, vitamins, and protein than many other whole grains, and four times the fiber of brown rice. It’s also very, very low in gluten, as it is harvested before it starts to develop.
I wanted to come up with something to do with these grains. With grains, I do three different things with them: I soak, sprout, and ferment them. I chose to soak the freekeh with a little bit of acid; I used raw apple cider vinegar, but lemon juice would do just fine. The helps to break up the phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of all those amazing minerals in the freekeh.
I remembered that when I was back in grad school I would use leftover brown rice in a throw together pilaf of sorts – the grain combined with a vegetable, some kind of dried fruit, and nuts. It was extremely cost-efficient and filling, and most importantly, it was extremely tasty.
I wanted rich, savory flavors in my pilaf, so I chose mushrooms (umami!), and I also had dried apricots and almonds in the house, so I went with those. The resulting combination was delicious and I loved it. The grains are chewy and toothsome, a little sweet and nutty, and quite filling, what with all that fiber. The mushrooms and onions add a nice savoriness, and the nuts and dried apricots add a crunchy and sweet-tang to break up the rich flavors throughout. A very satisfying dish, overall. I hope you like it.
1 cup dry freekeh
water for soaking, plus 1 cup for cooking
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 small red onion, diced
1 tablespoon of butter
10 oz mushroom caps, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
red wine, for deglazing
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
salt and pepper
Soak the freekeh in water and 1 teaspoon vinegar for 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse. Combine the freekeh with another cup of water in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, then cover and let cook on low heat until the freekeh has steamed and absorbed all the water.
Cook onion in butter until it caramelizes a bit. Add mushrooms to the onions, add a glug of olive oil and salt. Let the mushrooms release their juices.
Add the pressed/minced garlic to the onion-mushroom mixture. Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms start to sear. De-glaze with red wine.
Add the steamed freekeh to the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Stir to combine. Add the slivered almonds. Stir to combine. Finally, add the chopped apricots. Stir to combine. Let cook for another 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.