Thursday, May 23, 2013

Freekeh Salad


I was introduced to freekeh several months ago, at a restaurant in New York. While I really enjoyed the smoky flavor of the grain and its substantial crunch, the most memorable part of the introduction to freekeh for me was how the server waxed poetically about the grain, but wound up getting every characteristic of the grain wrong in her description. Still, freekeh is delicious, very familiar (since it is similar to bulgur wheat), and tremendously fun to say out loud!

Here is a recipe I highly recommend -- present it as a variant of tabbouleh and no one will be concerned about your describing the salad as if you were a Valley Girl trying to say "freaky salad."

Freekeh Salad
Adapted from Wise Monkeys

2 c freekeh
4-5 tomatoes, roughly cut
1-2 cucumbers, roughly cut
1 red onion, roughly cut
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch mint
zaatar, to taste
slivered almonds, dry roasted
feta cheese

1/4 c olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper

Important notes:
  • Freekeh is trendy right now. Don't spend your money buying it at an upscale grocery. If you have a Middle Eastern or Indian grocery in your community, buy freekeh there.
  • Since I was buying freekeh at a Middle Eastern grocery, I also used Persian cucumbers, since they were available. Not much different from our English cucumbers (or other Western styles). The most important step, imho, is scooping out the seeds before chopping the cucumber. This will lower the total amount of water in the salad, and, as a result, it will keep longer.
  • You can use red, white, or yellow onions in this salad. I prefer red for the bite, and, for aesthetic reasons; the color itself set up a nice contrast in the salad as a whole.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. 

Measure the freekeh onto a flat plate and sort through for pebbles or other impurities. 

When ready, add to the boiling water and stir. Boil until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Then, drain into a fine-mesh colander and wash with cold water. Drain, and then spread out on a plate to dry off for 30 minutes. Whatever we can do to lower overall water content is a good thing.

Combine all other salad ingredients together and toss.

Combine dressing ingredients and toss with the salad just before serving. 

This salad has a very unusual, smokey flavor that isn't off-putting, but rather alluring. I highly recommend it!

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