Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grainularity: Get Your Freak On, I Mean, FREEKEH

After the indulgences of holiday meals, perhaps you will be thinking about re-vamping your diet? Adding more fruits and vegetables is definitely one way to do it. But maybe you don't want the same old salad for lunch everyday? Here’s a way to spruce it up: try a grain salad! One of my new favorite grains is Freekeh (pronounced Free-ka).

Freekeh is a roasted green (whole) grain, similar to a wheat berry. Since it is harvested when it is soft and young, it is a “green” grain that retains tremendous amounts of nutrients and flavor. After harvesting, the grain is roasted and dried, (without additives or preservatives) to stop the ripening process and protect the nutrients from destructive enzymes.

Why have you done a good thing?

Compared to other grains, Freekeh is:

-Higher in fiber (6 grams/serving)à helps fight heart disease, protective against colon cancer, keeps you regular

-Higher in protein (5 grams/serving)à important for energy, bone, muscles, and many bodily functions!

-Lower glycemic index foodà blood sugar control

In general, whole grains contain many B vitamins, which are VIPs for our metabolism and nervous system. B vitamins help the body get energy from carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Whole grains also contain important minerals, such as magnesium and selenium. These key players are involved in building bones, releasing energy from muscles, protecting cells from oxidation, and support a healthy immune system.

OK, I’m ready to get my Freekeh, where should I go?

No, not to the clubs...

Get it raw: or the Union Square Farmer’s Market

Get it Cooked: Try Trader Joe’s cooked Greenwheat Freekeh

So, like most of you out there, I had no idea what this grain was when I came across it at the Farmer’s market a few months ago. But luckily for you, I finished the experimental phase and after some (unsuccessful) attempts, I am finally ready to share my secrets for success!

Cooking this grain is quite simple: soak, boil, salt lightly, simmer! Once you figure out how to cook the freekeh (which is easy- or you can buy it cooked) you can mix it with just about anything you have in the house (fruits and veggies) and top it off with some vinaigrette.

I mixed mine with some dried apricots, dries cranberries, toasted pistachios, and scallions, and then added a homemade balsamic vinaigrette (i.e. olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper)- easy!

Winter Freekeh (serves 4-6)

1 cup dried freekeh

2 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock

¼ cup dried apricots, chopped

¼ cup dried cranberries, chopped

¼ cup toasted pistachios, chopped

¼ cup scallions, sliced


2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

-Soak freekeh in cold water for about 30 minutes, then rinse and drain.

-Bring water or stock to a boil. Add freekeh, salt lightly if using water, cover and reduce to a simmer.

-Cook until the water is absorbed, about 30 min.

While freekeh is cooking, chop and slice dried fruits, nuts, and scallions, respectively. To prepare vinaigrette, whisk olive oil and balsamic vinegar together. Add salt and pepper. When freekeh is finished cooking, give vinaigrette a final whisk and combine with freekeh. Add dried fruits, nuts, and scallions. Serve hot or cold.

Other ideas: Make a vegetarian meal by mixing in other veggies and beans or tofu. Mix into soup instead of rice. Substitute freekeh in your next risotto recipe. Next time you make chicken, serve freekeh instead of rice with this New York Times recipe:

So now that you now it's out there...GO ahead and embrace your Freekeh!

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

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