Oh my god, have y'all tried freekah yet?! I first heard about it on the Our Hen House podcast a month or so ago. Even though it's an ancient grain and has been popular in Mediterranean cooking for centuries, but it's just starting to gain popularity here. Freekah is the new quinoa!
So what is it? It's a roasted green wheat cereal, meaning the wheat is harvested when the grains are still soft. Then it's sun-dried and roasted. The grains look a little like bulgur wheat. According to Wikipedia, the first mention of freekah comes from a 13th century Baghdad cookbook! How in the world am I just now learning about this stuff?
As for the taste, freekah has a nutty, smoky flavor. If you've ever had German smoked spelt, that's what it reminds me of. Or just imagine cooked bulgur with a dash of Liquid Smoke.
After hearing about freekah on Our Hen House, I promptly forgot about it. But last week, I was perusing the aisles of the Mediterranean Grocery on Park Avenue when I came across a bag of freekah. I tossed it in my basket. But when I got home, I wasn't sure what to do with it. I googled a few recipes, but nothing struck my fancy. Then I flipped over the bag and found a simple recipe for freekah pilaf on the bag.
Bingo! I used that recipe, but of course, I added some of my own touches. Namely, sauteed mushrooms. So here's my adapted recipe for Freekah Pilaf with Sauteed Mushrooms:
The dish came out so creamy, almost like a risotto. The recipe calls for a lot more liquid than with cooking, say, rice or quinoa. And it cooks for a long, long time. Maybe an hour? I would trade this stuff for rice any day.
Freekah Pilaf with Sauteed Mushrooms
Adapted from the Ziyad bag of freekah
1 cup dry freekah
5 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance
1 8-ounce package sliced button mushrooms
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Rinse the freekah using a fine-mesh sieve. Place it in a large pot and add the broth. If there are any freekah skins, they'll float to the top. Scoop those out and discard.
Add the oil and cumin and turn on high heat. Bring to a boil. Then place a lid on the pot and lower heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. You want the dish to be creamy, so make sure a teensy bit of liquid is left in the pot. You don't want a dry pilaf.
While the grains are simmering, melt the Earth Balance in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat with margarine. Allow the mushrooms to cook down for about 5 minutes, add the spices, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and have absorbed most of the margarine.
When the pilaf is done, stir in the mushrooms. Enjoy!