When it comes to healthy eating I try not to go against the grain.
Rice is nice, but I could eat enough to reconstruct Mount Rushmore. It just doesn’t do it for me in terms of nutrition.
I do love quinoa (a grain crop grown for its edible seeds), which I once thought was pronounced “Kwin-KNOW-uh,” but my partner in cuisine crime detests it. I think he hates the little squiggly “tails” the most.
Cauliflower “rice” was delicious, but it just doesn’t have the toothsomeness (take THAT Scrabble!) of actual grains.
We’re too cheap to spring for a Costco membership, so our friend Andrea took me.
After throwing myself on the suitcase-sized containers of raspberries and Partridge Family-sized bags of fruit, I stumbled across a little (for Costco it was little) bag of freekeh.
I read the label and had to have it.
This Middle Eastern staple’s been around for a long time, but it’s been getting popular in the United States.
Freekeh means “to rub” in Arabic. And basically, the young green wheat is sun-dried and then roasted so only the straw and protective casings of the seeds burn. The seeds themselves have a lot of moisture, so they don’t burn.
It comes whole or cracked. The cracked kind, which is what I got, cooks faster.
At the risk of sounding like a nut, I’ll tell you this: To me, the cracked freekeh looks like the clippings from a dog’s nails. I also think it looks a bit like kitty litter. Don’t hold it against me.
This stuff seems to be as good as quinoa, if not better in terms of nutrition.
Freekeh offers a lot of fiber and protein. I’m talkin’ 4 times the amount of fiber in brown rice, which barely offers any protein.
According to the package I got, one serving of freekeh is 1/2 cup and it provides 11 grams of protein!
One cup uncooked yields about 3 cups cooked.
Because it’s a blank canvas, I wanted to load it with flavor. I made a pilaf, but I used it two ways.
For the longest time I believed that a pilaf just meant with vegetables, namely peas. Technically, pilaf is rice that’s cooked in a highly seasoned broth.
Here’s what you need:
2 cups cracked freekeh
4 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 cup water
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. Herbes de Provence
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
First of all, let me tell you about the Herbes de Provence. This is a dried mixture of marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, and lavender. The blend (minus the lavender, a US addition) is used in Provence, the southeastern region of France. This is a flavor powerhouse. I love it on chicken.
In a large pan on medium-high heat, add the oil.
Add the garlic, stir.
Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, stir.
Now, remove 3 cups of the pilaf and put it into a bowl. Let cool, and refrigerate. This will be used for the next preparation.
Use a fork to fluff what’s left in the pan and then top each serving with a small pat of butter.
The freekeh is just a tad bit chewy. The peas are sweet and pop with each bite.
With the reserved 3 cups of pilaf I made a salad.
Here’s what you need:
3 cups of freekeh pilaf, cooled
1 can of chunk light tuna in water, drained
Use a fork to fluff the cooled pilaf.
Zest and juice the lemon into the bowl.
Add the tuna.
Add a pinch or two of salt, stir.
This kicks a pasta salad right in the ravioli.
Protein is the main course in this salad.
You could even add fresh basil or parsley.
I’m thinking about making a breakfast version. I’ll cook the freekeh in water, then mix in some maple syrup, orange zest, and top with crispy bacon. Makes me want to go to bed right now, so I can wake up and get freekeh! Ha – ha – get it?
Tip: Make a big batch of freekeh (or quinoa) on Monday and then use it throughout the week in different preparations. Add fresh herbs and green onions and eat as a side. Or just use as a base for Indian or Chinese inspired foods. You can also use it for breakfast like I mentioned above. Bottom line: one batch will last you several days and you shouldn’t have to worry about it tasting the same every day!