Updated: Feb 8
Summers in the Middle East are long, hot, and dry, but it's the springtime heat waves and sandy winds that create a major threat to crops in the area. In ancient times, local farmers used to harvest some of the wheat early in the spring, while it was still young and green, roast the stalks over an open fire, then hull and store the grains for many months. These toasted green-brown grains - called freekeh - characterized by a chewy texture and a smoky flavor became a staple in the Arabic kitchen for centuries.
Traditional Arabic cuisine uses freekeh for soups and stuffed vegetables, but we like to use this ancient grain as a side dish or as a base for a hearty salad. Apart from its unique smoky taste, green grain is low in gluten and high in fiber and protein compared to regular ripe grain. Pre-soaked is not required, cooking is fast (make sure to purchase the cracked wheat, not the whole), and no matter what you pair it with - take our word for that - it's going to be a freekeh show! Make a warm salad (inspired by the one below), or a cold one with fresh-cut vegetables. Mix cooked freekeh with green leaves or chopped herbs, and a fresh-cut fruit (a good ratio is a lot of greens with only one type of fruit, we recommend pomegranate, cherries, or nectarines), you can also add dried fruit for a sweet note, or nuts for a bit of crunch.
1 ½ cups freekeh
2 cups hot water, more if needed
1 purple onion, cut into thick wedges
3 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch sticks
1 eggplant, cut into large chunks
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Cloves from 1 garlic, (don't bother to peel it, just make a small slit and the skin will be removed easily after roasting)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley, or Cilantro - for garnish
Preheat oven to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss all the vegetables and chickpeas with about 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, a large pinch of salt, and pepper. Arrange the lined baking sheets in a single layer.
Roast the vegetables, rotating the pans halfway through roasting, until golden and tender, about 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse the freekeh in a bowl several times until the water is clear.
Transfer to a medium-sized pot, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 cups of hot water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, cook until the water had been absorbed and the grains are tender but still have a bit of a bite to them.
Remove the freekeh to a shallow serving bowl or a plate, top with the roasted vegetable, and garnish with fresh parsley (or cilantro).
Serve with classic tahini sauce or tahini yogurt on the side (check out our website for the recipe).