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Freekeh, the whole grain with a silly name, demands to be taken seriously

I like to think I know everything about food. Then I read on Twitter “Just had freekeh risotto @NorthernSpyFoods!” and I think, “What the freak is freekah?”

I like to think I know everything about food. Sometimes I get my comeuppance when I say stuff like “last night I tried brains!” after which a friend corrects me with “sweetbreads are a GLAND, moron.” Sometimes it happens on Twitter when I read “Just had freekeh risotto @NorthernSpyFoods!” and I think “What the freak is freekah?”

I went to the East Village restaurant Northern Spy Foods to sample the freekeh risotto and it was freakin’ delicious. Nutty, toothsome, filling. It was listed on the menu as “Cayuga Pure Organics freekeh,” so I made a special trip to the Wednesday Union Square Greenmarket to visit their stand.

It looks like rice, but it's freekeh

Freekeh, I learned, is a smoked green wheat, and looks kind of like rice. It has a lot of depth of flavor and an insanely great texture. It’s Middle Eastern, and while it is probably available in Middle Eastern food stores, I myself haven’t seen it anywhere except at the Cayuga Organics stand, where I bought a pint’s worth (along with some fantastic white beans—but that’s another post).

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, freekeh “contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals than most grains, and up to four times the fiber content of brown rice, though it has hardly any gluten, since it is harvested before its protein develops.”

I cooked it simply with water, then tossed it with cucumber, snap peas, and crumbled feta. I ate it for lunch three days in a row and each day I looked forward to lunch. So what are you waiting for? Get freeky. —Jerusha Klemperer

Fast Freekeh Salad

Jerusha Klemperer
Klemperer is Program Manager at Slow Food USA

1 cup freekah, rinsed
3 cups water
4 small burpless Middle Eastern cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 cup crumbled feta (a nice salty one)
2 cups snap peas (ends trimmed), blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, then chopped in half or thirds
3 glugs olive oil
2 glugs red wine vinegar
more salt to taste, if needed

Cover the freekah with the water and a few pinches of salt. Bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. (It might take longer but after 30 check and see if you like the texture.)

Strain it (you can save that water for soup or something). Once freekeh has cooled, toss it with remaining ingredients.

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