Friday, July 23, 2010

Freekeh with Summer Veggies

I was going to start this post off by saying "Kevin and I love grains, especially nutty ones" but wow.  Failing to think of anything else, I will distract you by going on to say For example, have you had farro? Love it.  It's a grain--looks like rice but plumper and brown, with a much nuttier flavor than rice.  Not that rice is bad. I love me some rice.  Last summer I enjoyed making farro and eggplant (or something like that).

But this post has "freekeh" in the title--what gives? Well, this year, we've discovered the awesome grain freekeh (pronounced more like "freekah", but actually what do I know).  I had never heard of it until coming upon it at the Cayuga Pure Organics stand at the farmers' market.  The first time I saw it, I picked up a container and asked the woman how much the "farro" was and was rewarded with a stinkeye and reprimand that it was freekeh.

This is our new favorite grain. It is to farro what farro is to rice.  Even nuttier, with a very toothsome texture.  This stuff retains much more of a bite than farro.  Not that farro is bad. I love me some farro. I know, you've heard that line before.

I figured I'd make something similar to the farro and eggplant with the freekeh, but this time I threw in some other vegetables and didn't rely on any particular recipe.  That is a big deal for me.  I am typically a slave to recipes--I'm not very creative in the kitchen.  It's only recently that I've begun to branch away from recipes and, you know, start thinking for myself and not having a heart attack if I miss an ingredient or substitute something.

Enough about me and back to the freekeh.  Here it is, in my grubby little paw.

The woman from Cayuga Pure Organics advised soaking the freekeh in water for about 6 hours, and then simmering it in water for about 20 minutes.  In our hot apartment, 6 hours is a little long and they start to break down, so I soak for about 4 hours, or stick the soaking freekeh in the fridge for some of the time.  I guess you could soak them in the fridge whil you're at work. 

After soaking, I drain the grains and place them in a pot of boiling water or stock, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until it gets to the texture I like (keeping in mind this is a very firm grain so it's never going to be soft).  Drain and it's ready to use! Note: It's not like rice where the water has to be an exact proportion and all gets soaked up--you're going to have extra water. Also, reserve some of the cooking liquid when you drain.

For our freekeh and veggies dish, I used:
  • about 1.5 cups of freekeh, cooked as described above
  • 3 small (or 2 medium) Japanese eggplants--the thin long ones that don't have as many seeds
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 small (or 2 medium) squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup julienned basil
This recipe serves 4-6.  

I chopped up the eggplant, onion and squash into about 1/3 to 1/2 inch dice.

See the pig bowl? Isn't it cute?

Sometimes when I use cherry tomatoes in a recipe, I like to give them an extra zing by adding about a tsp of balsamic mixed with a tsp of water to the tomatoes. I let them sit, stirring occasionally, until ready to use.  Just gives an extra bit of acidity and sweetness.

Ignore the basil and garlic, I was using it for a different recipe

In a deep skillet or stockpot, heat enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan to medium high heat.  Add in the eggplant and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring fairly frequently to prevent burning and adding oil if looking dry. By the way I sometimes salt as I go along, and to the eggplant I added a dash of salt, about 1/8 tsp.

Confession: I like eating eggplant but I don't like cooking it.  It burns, it absorbs oil, I don't know what I'm doing, etc. I know there's the whole method of salting, rinsing and drying them but I don't engage in that sort of behavior.  This time I just kept a close eye and added more oil when necessary. Remove cooked eggplant from pot. 

The back of the piggy bowl! Curly tail, just like a pug's.

Add some more oil to the pot and saute the onions and garlic until translucent and turning golden, about 5-6 minutes, and then add in the squash. Again, I added about 1/8 tsp to this mixture.

I also added a TBS or two of water to help the squash cook, but don't add too much or things will get mushy.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until squash is cooked to your liking.

Turn off heat.  Add the cooked eggplant, freekeh, tomato/balsamic mixture, parmesan and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  And remember that reserved cooking liquid from the freekeh? I added at least 1/2 cup to the dish to just loosen it up a bit--one time I cooked freekeh and the next day it was kind of dry and hard to chew, so I wanted to make it a bit more "wet" this time.



  1. oooo! a new grain! (for me) I will have to rush out and get some to make this dish with the flavorful summer bounty we have spilling over at our markets! the markets, that is, here where you should move, where the air is clearer, the sun is sunnier, and the apartments are not quite so hot.

  2. That sounds so delicious!! I'm like you though, no clue what I'm doing with egg plant. I tried to cook it in some olive oil and I felt like it was just a sponge in the oil. Not good.

  3. pig-bowl is very cute :D I'm scared of eggplant, since I've had some really baddddllly cooked ones in the past, but you make it loo good!

  4. you're a really good cook. i won't make this, but i will look at the pictures for a long time and say to myself, "i'm going to make this."