Bulgur and freekah pilaf
Nuts and cranberries brighten this whole-grain dish made with freekah – smoked green wheat.
Do you know freekah? Some call it friki, or freekeh. Depends on where you’re from. Like bulgur, it’s wheat that’s first boiled, then dried, then crushed. But freekah is different in that the wheat is gathered before it’s ripe, then briefly charred while still in the stalk. The result is a smoky grain that keeps for a long time. Unseasonal rains can spoil a wheat crop, and in old times, insect infestations could ruin it too. Freekah guaranteed food for the farmer in those precarious times, even if the rest of the wheat crop failed. The tradition of making freekah lives on, less because of worries over the food supply and more because people like it. Some communities in northern Israel depend on wheat much more than on rice or potatoes. The farmers take their wheat to community mills and wait while their wheat is crushed according to their desire: fine-ground, medium or coarse.
Freekah and bulgur often show up separately in stuffed vegetables, and sometimes as main salad ingredients. They’re also used as thickening for stews or as a starchy side dish, like rice. Here they stand by each other like brothers, which in a way they are. The combination of earthy, pungent and sharp flavors is surprising, but not so exotic as to shock. Nuts and cranberries give a modern twist to these traditional grains, as well as adding a welcome crunchiness.
- 1/2 cup freekah, soaked 15 minutes
- 1/2 cup coarse-ground bulgur
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely
- 2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 tablespoons sliced, blanched almonds
- 2 tablespoons sugar-free dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
Rinse the freekah and soak it in plenty of cold water for 15 minutes. Drain well. This is to soften it somewhat. Bulgur doesn’t need soaking or even rinsing, unless it looks dusty. If you choose to rinse the bulgur, use cold water and drain thoroughly.
Heat the oil in a medium pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic, salt and allspice; stir. Cook 1 minute, stirring.
Add the drained freekah and the bulgur. Cover with the boiling water.
Stir, cover the pan, and cook on low heat 40 minutes.
Allow to stand 10 minutes off the heat. In the meantime, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet, over medium heat – only 2 minutes, shaking the skillet a few times to redistribute the nuts and avoid burning them. Remove the nuts from the heat as soon as they darken slightly and a nutty smell rises.
Carefully mix the almonds and pine nuts into the bulgur/freekah mixture, with a fork.
Spoon the bulgur and freekah into a large bowl and sprinkle with cranberries. Serve this festive dish with roast chicken or stew, or as a vegan stand-alone.
Related Topics: Vegetarian