By Alessandra Bulow
Tired of eating the same old quinoa salad? Mix things up and try freekeh instead. The ancient grain is showing up on restaurant menus throughout the country including Franny’s and BKLYN Larder in Brooklyn, New York, chef Larry McGuire’s Jeffrey’s in Austin, Texas, and chef Jenn Louis’s Sunshine Tavern and Lincoln in Portland, Oregon. But since freekeh is also pretty easy to find in your local supermarket, a big box store like Costco, or online, you can make it at home too.
Freekeh is roasted green spelt berries that have a chewy texture and a nutty, lightly smoky flavor that quinoa lacks. Plus, the whole grain is loaded with protein and fiber, just like quinoa, and it won’t make your blood sugar spike (note: it’s not gluten-free). I like my freekeh al dente, so cooking it in boiling salted water or chicken broth for about 20 to 25 minutes usually does the trick. If you find that you prefer it less toothsome, allow it to cook for 35 to 45 minutes.
Here’s a great recipes to try with freekeh.
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CHICKEN WITH KALE AND FREEKAH
You’ll only need 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette for the pilaf; use the rest all week.
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1/2 cup Sherry vinegar
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Hunza raisins
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pilaf and chicken:
4 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2”-thick cutlets
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 pound kale, large center ribs and stems removed, torn into pieces
1 cup cooked freekeh
1 cup cooked lentils
For vinaigrette: Stir cumin in a small dry skillet over medium heat until toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; add vinegar and garlic. Let stand for 30 seconds. Transfer to a blender; add oil and next 3 ingredients. Purée. Season with salt.
For pilaf and chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season chicken with salt. Working in 2 batches and adding 1 tablespoon oil between batches, cook chicken in single layers until browned on both sides and just cooked through, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
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Remove pan from heat; add 1/4 cup water. Stir, scraping up browned bits. Whisk in 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Scrape sauce into a bowl.
Melt butter with 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until just beginning to brown, 1–2 minutes. Discard garlic. Working in 3 batches and adding more oil as needed, add kale to skillet and toss until wilted, 1–2 minutes per batch. Transfer to a large bowl. Season lightly with salt. Cover to keep warm.
Add freekeh and lentils to same skillet. Increase heat; stir until warm, 2–3 minutes.
Spoon pilaf onto plates. Top with chicken. Whisk juices from plate with chicken into sauce; drizzle over chicken and pilaf. Top with kale.