A traditional food of the Middle East and North Africa, freekeh is wheat that is harvested young, then dried, giving it a smoky taste and aroma.
To cook whole freekeh (which is not common in the U.S.), combine 1 cup of the grain with 2 1/2 cups of boiling water and soak, covered, overnight. When you are ready to cook, turn on the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the kernels just begin to pop, says Maria Speck, author of “Simply Ancient Grains.” Whole freekeh also can be cooked in a large pot of boiling, salted water, similar to pasta, then drained, but it still must be soaked overnight.
Cracked freekeh, which is the most common variety sold in the United States, does not require soaking and can be cooked using both of the above methods in about 15 to 20 minutes. In all cases, let the fully cooked grains stand in the covered pot for 10 minutes before serving to absorb any remaining moisture.
TABBOULEH: Freekeh is similar to bulgur wheat and can be used interchangeably in recipes that call for it, such as tabbouleh: Combine 2 tablespoons each of chopped fresh mint and oregano with 1 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 cup cooked freekeh and 2 minced cloves of garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then dress liberally with lemon juice and olive oil.
BURGERS: To make curried freekeh chickpea burgers, combine 1 clove minced garlic, 2 chopped scallions, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and a 15-ounce can (drained) of chickpeas, reserving the liquid from the chickpeas. Stir in 1 cup of cooked freekeh, with just enough of the reserved chickpea liquid to make a thick mixture that holds its shape when you squeeze it together. Shape into 6 patties and sear on both sides in a hot skillet with olive oil. Serve with your favourite burger toppings on a toasted bun.
(Recipes by Alison Ladman)