It’s no secret that I love a good recipe challenge. Bob’s Red Mill challenged me to come up with a recipe to go with freekeh, the latest addition to their Ancient Grains line. I’m glad they did, because now I have a new favorite quick-cooking grain in my pantry.
I’d honestly poked fun of funny-sounding “freekeh” before I tasted it myself, in part because it conjured up memories of the rap songs playing at parties during my early college years. Ah, freekeh freekeh! Sorry.
As it turns out, freekeh is not a lyric from rap songs, nor is it bland hippie food. Sorry again. Freekeh is a flavorful strain of ancient wheat with a nutty, slightly smoky flavor and a pleasantly chewy, couscous-like texture. Bonus? Cracked freekeh cooks up in 25 minutes, so it requires less than half the time of wheat berries or other whole grains.
While the grain is new to me, freekeh is actually one of the oldest grains out there. Freekeh is young, green wheat that has been roasted and cooked in the Middle East for about 2000 years. Since freekeh is a strain of wheat, it’s not gluten free, but it is highly nutritious. It’s rich in protein, iron and above all, fiber.
The fiber content is no joke. Freekeh has twice as much fiber as quinoa and it keeps me feeling full for hours and hours. I wasn’t hungry for breakfast after my dinner of roasted cauliflower and freekeh the evening before.
I’ve found two slightly different cooking methods that produce different textures. For a fluffier, more separated, couscous-like texture, cook the freekeh just until tender, then drain off any liquid and let it steam in the pot, covered, for 5 minutes, before fluffing it with a fork. If you want a more creamy, borderline risotto-like texture, cook the freekeh until it has absorbed all of the moisture in the pot.
I decided to stay true to freekeh’s Middle Eastern roots with this cauliflower and tahini dish. I found a freekeh pilaf recipe on the back of the freekeh package, and it reminded me of an amazing rice pilaf I tried in Israel, so I used that as the base of the dish. I altered the method to produce a fluffier texture, which contrasts nicely with the creamy sauce. I’ve been obsessed with the combination of creamy, nutty tahini with caramelized cauliflower ever since I tried a cauliflower pita sandwich at a local Mediterranean restaurant earlier this year.
The complete dish is my new favorite comfort meal. It’s healthy, wholesome but above all, outrageously delicious—making it pretty much perfect for post-holiday consumption.
One last note before I go. Freekeh is rather new to the scene, so you might have better luck finding it online than in your local grocery store just yet. You can buy it directly through Bob’s Red Mill over here. Or in the meantime, feel free to substitute another whole grain that you have in your pantry. I think whole wheat couscous, farro, quinoa or barley would go great here. You’ll just need to adjust the amount of liquid and cooking time accordingly.
- 1 large, tightly packed head of cauliflower, sliced into bite-sized florets
- 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup slivered or sliced almonds
- 1¼ cups cracked freekeh*
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (25 ounces) vegetable stock and/or water
- ⅓ cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- Scant ⅓ cup water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Handful fresh parsley and/or cilantro leaves, chopped
- Crumbled feta (optional, omit for a vegan dish)
- Small handful raisins
- Sprinkling of sesame seeds
- To roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower florets with enough olive oil to cover them in a light, even layer of oil. Season with salt and pepper and arrange the florets in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway, until the florets are deeply golden on the edges.
- To cook the freekeh: Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're fragrant and turning golden on the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the freekeh and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the garlic, cumin, coriander and salt, and sauté for 1 more minute. Add vegetable broth, raise the heat and bring the mixture a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, until freekeh is tender to the bite, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To make the dressing: In a bowl, stir together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk in the water until you have a smooth, blended tahini sauce. Season generously with salt (I added about ¼ teaspoon) and black pepper, to taste.
- To assemble the individual dishes: Start with a bed of cooked freekeh and top with roasted cauliflower. Drizzle tahini sauce generously over the dish and then top with a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs, crumbled feta (optional), raisins and sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Leftovers are best stored as individual components and assembled after reheating the freekeh and cauliflower.
Leftovers? Leftover tahini sauce makes a great dressing for greens. Actually, any leftover components would go great in a green salad.
*Freekeh substitutions If you can't find freekeh, substitute your whole grain of choice for the freekeh, adjusting vegetable broth and cooking time as necessary. Farro, barley, whole wheat couscous or quinoa would make great substitutes for the freekeh.
Make it gluten free: Substitute quinoa for the freekeh, adjusting the amount of liquid (vegetable broth and/or water) and cooking time accordingly.
Make it vegan/dairy free: Skip the feta.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill and I received compensation for my participation. Opinions are my own, always. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who support C+K!