Chosen Bites: Get your 'Freekeh' on

This ancient grain is versatile and is perfect to use with stuffed peppers as well as soups, salads and even as a side dish.

August 14, 2013 11:37
3 minute read.
Stuffed Peppers with Freekeh Pilaf

Stuffed Peppers with Freekeh Pilaf. (photo credit: Laura Frankel)

I love all things whole grain and am always looking to change things up at dinner time.
More often than not, the next big thing is often an ancient find that just needs a modern tweak to two and is suddenly rebranded as the hot new thing. Freekeh is young green wheat that has been toasted and cracked. Cracked wheat is delicious and not especially new. But Freekeh, with its subtly smoky flavor and wonderfully chewy texture is a deliciously different option from the usual rice, pasta and potatoes.

Freekeh is quick cooking (about 15 minutes) and since it's a whole grain (even though it's cracked wheat) is loaded with fiber and essential nutrients. Freekeh is available online and in many markets.

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Freekeh is versatile and can be added to soups, salads, stuffing and used as a side dish. Break away from the usual and go whole grain with Freekeh.

Stuffed Peppers with Freekeh Pilaf
Serves 4

For the topping:
3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons toasted and chopped almonds
¼ cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the peppers:
4 large bell peppers (I prefer red or yellow peppers for their sweet flavor), tops cut off and seeded
1 small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ pound ground turkey
1 1/2 cups cooked Freekeh*
¼ cup raisins
½ cup diced fresh or canned tomatoes with their juices
¼ cup of chicken stock or water
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 176 C

1. Stir the ingredients together for the topping in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Heat a medium sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium high heat. Sauté the onion in the pan until it golden brown (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic, grated carrot, grated zucchini and continue cooking for two minutes until the carrot has softened and the garlic is very fragrant.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the turkey is cooked through.

4. Stuff the peppers with the mixture. Top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the peppers are cooked through and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

5. Spoon any pan juices over the peppers

*The secret to cooking fluffy grains is being sure to use the right amount of liquid. There are two methods to cooking grains: The Absorption Method or the Pasta Method.

The Absorption method consists of adding hot liquid to the rice in the right proportion so that all of the liquid is absorbed and the grains end up fluffy and perfectly plumped.

The Pasta method is where liquid is brought to a boil and the grains are added, cooked and then drained. This method is perfect for pasta, but is not great for grains as the grains end up waterlogged and soggy.

Many grains require a 2:1 ratio. That means 2 parts liquid to 1 part grains. The following basic recipe works for quinoa, bulgur, rice and many other grains.

2 cups chicken stock or water
Pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Freekah

1.  Be sure to use a heavy bottom pan with a tight fitting lid. Bring the chicken stock or water, saffron and salt to a boil.

2. Add the Freekeh and cover the pan. Simmer the mixture over medium heat. When the level of the water drops slightly below the level of the freekeh, turn off the pan and cover. The steam will finish the cooking process.

3. After 10 minutes, open the pan and fluff the grains with a fork and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

4. Freekeh can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or can be frozen for two months.

I like to make extra Freekeh and keep some in a freezer bag for quick soup additions, side dishes and as an addition to a salad.

Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.

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