Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kale and Cremini Mushroom Greenwheat Freekah Pilaf

We are enjoying a whole grains revolution. Not only is the public becoming enthralled with whole wheat breads, quinoa salads, and brown rice sushi rolls, but we're being introduced to a plethora of flavorful ancient grains whose names still mystify a wide swath of consumers. Cookbook after new cookbook is coming out with recipes for grains like spelt, farro, wheat berries, and amaranth, and vendors are showcasing them on market shelves. But it doesn't take much namedropping to underscore how much education still needs to be done.

Raw greenwheat freekah
A case in point would be greenwheat freekah. I posted a short note on Facebook last weekend that I was making a pilaf with this for dinner with my parents and friends responded with a big virtual, "Huh?"

So, let's talk freekah. This is less a grain than a process which originated in the Middle East centuries ago in which grains are harvested while still green and then slow roasted in the hull. In this case, it's called greenwheat freekah because the freekah is made with young wheat kernels. It's reminiscent of farro and barley, with a nutty, grassy flavor and hearty, toothy texture.

I was sent an eight-ounce package of greenwheat freekah by Indian Harvest. What I love about it, along with the flavor and the fact that it cooks up in all of 20 minutes, is that it's so ridiculously healthy. It's low in fat, low carb with a low-glycemic index, high in fiber (a single serving has seven grams of dietary fiber), and is a prebiotic.

Cooked greenwheat freekah
Greenwheat freekah is as versatile as rice, even if it's more earthy, so it's an easy substitute for many of your favorite rice-based recipes. This time of year, mix it up with winter squash, crispy bacon, sauteed greens, fresh apples and pears, dried fruit, toasted nuts, or mushrooms. In warmer weather, turn it into a salad with fresh herbs, shrimp, berries, or figs.

With a full vegetable bin in the fridge, I decided to make a pilaf using kale, crimini mushrooms, and herbs. It was easy to put together and absolutely delicious.

Kale and Cremini Mushroom Greenwheat Freekah Pilaf
(printable recipe here)
Makes six servings

1 cup greenwheat freekah
1 3/4 cups water or stock
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch kale, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as sage, oregano, or Mexican tarragon
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring water or stock to a boil. Stir in the freekah. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

2. While the freekah is simmering, heat a large saute pan or wok. Add oil and let warm up. Reduce the heat and add the garlic and onions. Let them cook slowly until almost caramelized. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add kale and herbs. Cook until wilted. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the cooked freekah and mix thoroughly. Serve.

Kale and Cremini Mushroom Greenwheat Freekah Pilaf
You can order freekah online from vendors like Indian Harvest, but also try your local Whole Foods, Jimbo's, and even Trader Joe's to see if they stock it. And, there's a wonderful website from The Whole Grains Council that's a great source of information.

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