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Monday, February 25, 2008

Freekeh with chickpeas and mushrooms

I will forever remember freekeh as the best meal that I've ever eaten in a Greyhound Bus station.

I guess I'm something of an anomaly. I seriously love the Greyhound Bus system. You can't beat the price, you meet interesting people, and you are granted hours upon hours to do nothing but read, knit and think. Heaven. But the Greyhound is seriously lacking in one very important thing: anything to eat in the stations. They can't even put in a Taco Bell or a Burger King ...they have their own brand of pitifully cheap "restaurants" If you're a vegetarian or like food that is not corn meal + corn oil + corn syrup + artificial flavoring, fuggettaboutit. The only options are limp grilled cheese, nachos, and brown salads with fat free italian dressing. Greyhound bus food is why god invented Tupperware.

I'm generally a poor planner and don't have the foresight to pack food with me on long trips. But whenever I leave Ohio, my dad makes sure I have at least two backpacks filled with food, often extremely perishable, in glass containers, or melting. [I'll save the story about the 6 jars of expired olive tapenede that exploded in the bottom of my suitcase for another time].

All this is to say that one time, I think last winter, he packed me up a big bowl of Freekeh, cooked with tender peas and mushrooms. And it was exactly, EXACTLY what one would want to eat cold, with a plastic fork, as they sit on top of their suitcase in Wheeling, WV. The wheatberries had a subtle pop and the mushrooms played with the earthy undertones of the toasted wheat. Comfort food to the X-Tream!

I'm gonna cred the Palestinian Fair Trade website for the description of Freekeh [in hopes that any readers will cruise on over to that site, because they're doing good things!]

Freekeh is a delicious, highly nutritious grain made from roasted green grains. It is free from any chemicals. Because the grains are harvested while still young, Freekeh contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals than the same mature grain and other grains. It is high in fiber (up to four times the fiber of brown rice).

I scored some from my dads store this Christmas and finally got around to making it.

This recipe for freekeh is very much in tune with a certain niche I have been working to carve out for myself. Every cook has their specialty. A baker I am not, as has been made clear on numerous occasions, most recently my failed banana cupcakes. I suck at soups... I tend to make GIGANTIC pots that are mostly inedible due to oversalting, lifeless vegetables, and a flat-out refusal to bust out my food processor. Appetizers often require too many pans and seem like a waste of time.

My favorite recipes, the ones that give me the most joy, are the big, one pot recipes that involve a whole grain, a full serving of vegetables, and a protein source. Oh and that taste divine...Like, you could eat it at least once a week and not get sick of it good. Not like, wow, look at me I'm so healthy and yet so bland. Not like that at all. I like the challenge of a creating a healthy meal that tastes good, one that can be carted to work in my handy dandy lunch jar, frozen into ziplock bags for when I'm running out the door, or reheated after a long night of meetings. DIY convenience food.

This recipe for Freekeh is a perfect candidate. Its quick and nourishing, goes down easy but delightfully complex.

What I wish I had done:
  • Measured out the Freekeh and the water [I used too much water so my freekeh had a little bit of pasty going on.]
  • Used a wild mushroom mixture instead of the portobellos
  • Added a bay leaf, a sprig of fresh thyme and a cinnamon stick to the water

Freekeh with chickpeas and mushrooms

2 c. Freekeh
2 1/2c. Water
bullion cube
mushrooms [I used 1 box of baby portobellos and they worked fine. Oysters and shitakes would be geat], chopped
1 onion
1 can chickpeas
black pepper
**I added a dab of harissa, because it is my favorite way to make things spicy these days. You can use crushed red pepper or a teensy bit of cayenne].

Wash Freekeh thouroughly. Chop onion and sautee in large pot with olive oil. Add Freekeh and cook until Freekeh is toasted. Add water, bring to boil and then let simmer for 40 minutes or so. Oh, if you want you can dissolve a bullion cube in some of the water and add that. But if you do, go easy on the salt cause its real salty. In a large skillet, sautee mushrooms in butter or oil. Add can of chickpeas. Season with spices. When Freekeh is done cooking, stir in the mushroom mixture. Add more seasonings to taste.


orlyh said...

I looove your blog, Kate! I came across it last night while looking for a freekeh recipe and I ended up reading and reading much more.

The freekeh I made last night came out great, too. I combined your recipe with one from "The Palestinian Cooking" by Malak Nammari Yuzbashi, a badly organized cookbook printed here in Jerusalem probably by the author himself (it has no mention of a publishing company, but has the name and phone number of the printing company!) If you can get your hands on a copy, do! It has amazing recipes and great tips.

(Intrigued, I just googled Yuzbashi and found he has a facebook site. I've written him a message telling him how good his freikeh is too :)

He soaks the freikeh in hot water before cooking it. And in addition to the cinnamon and allspice, he adds bay leaves, and a pinch of cardamon, cloves, nutmeg and ground caraway seeds. (I didn't have the caraway.)

Added with the soft crunch of the chickpeas the end dish was amaaazing.

Meanwhile, I noticed:
your link to the Palestinian Fair Trade website doesn't work, you need to remove the end.
Clifford Wright has a great history and explanation of freekeh:

He also links to these interesting photos of how the wheat is processed. Talk about slow food!

anyway, I love your blog (did I already say that?) it's funny, creative, personal - and has recipes of food I want to cook!

keep it up.


p.s. yes, your photo of the roasted brussell sprouts and eggs was super professional.

Wild Thyme Kitchen said...

Hi Orly!

Thanks for writing. I tried to find the Palestinian Cooking book on Amazon, to no avail. No let me know if you know of a place to buy it online. Is it in Arabic?

Thanks for the heads up about the link. I'll change it shortly.

And thanks for the sweet comments on the blog! It's nice when people take the time to give a shout out.

Talk to you soon,