Ethical Eating

I'm Eating What?! Freekeh

​Who can resist picking up a box that announces it's "freekeh?" The last time many of us got to get freaky was 2010, so the thought of eating some magic aphrodisiac to get our mojo rising was just too tempting. 

The problem, we realized, was that the damn package didn't give us any clue how to make it. Oh, and by the way, we were still not even sure what it is. There's no ingredient listing, either. Yeah there was some recipe for a dish with lamb stew meat, spices, nuts, and onion, but all those extras would make us gassy and that, dear friends, will not help when we get our freak on, right? Wait! It says freekeh is grilled green wheat! Okay, now we're on to something.

Wikipedia, our oracle, explained: "The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft; it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. It is the high moisture content of the seeds that prevents them from burning. The now roasted wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform. It is this thrashing or rubbing process of the grains that gives this food its name, farīk or "rubbed." The seeds are now cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur."

Hmm. Thrashed bulgur. Sounds sexy. 

We also discovered this box we found for $3.99 at a Middle Eastern market contained a product which was considered highly nutritious, boasting more protein, vitamins and minerals than comparable grains. It's also lower in carbs and up to four times higher in fiber than brown rice. Now we were starting to understand why the box announced "One meal a week and stay healthy every week." (And who says copywriters have a tough time trying to find a gig?)

But we still had no idea how to prepare it.

Call it luck, but we spotted the word on restaurant's menu just when we were about to give up hope. We had trucked down to Coral Gables to check out a place called Hawa Fusion because, frankly, we couldn't imagine anyone could really fuse Middle Eastern and Asian foods successfully. But there it was on the menu: green freekeh. We were tempted to just order it, but our endless list of questions prompted the owner to escort us back into the kitchen for a full-on education. 

"Use it instead of barley, like in barley soup. Or add ground lamb and pine nuts to it. Or you can make it into a risotto with mushrooms," he explained. 

"But how do you make it plain, as a side dish?" we asked.

"Just put it in a rice cooker with 2 inches of water above it and steam for 45 minutes."

Well that sounds easy enough. Oh, and we found out it is actually pronounced "free-kah."

Blessedly, he gave us a taste and we really liked the stuff. It does have the consistency of barley or a large-grain couscous and a slightly nutty flavor. It is actually green, too--no false advertising there--and it smells a little like oregano. Bye-bye quinoa. We think we found a new love.

Check back on Monday for Hawa Fusion's freekeh with wild mushroom "risotto" recipe. But in the meantime, we think anyone without a wheat allergy should eat this, especially those with a little poo problem.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Riki Altman