Despite the “freaky” name, freekeh (pronounced free-kah), has been a dietary staple for hundreds of years in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Freekeh is very similar to cracked wheat or bulgur, but has one interesting difference: the grain is made from young green wheat that goes through a roasting process during production. The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft and it’s then piled and sun-dried. Even though freekeh can sometimes be referred to as “green wheat,” the color is golden brown with a slight green tinge.
The health bonus of harvesting immature wheat is that it retains more of its nutrients and proteins than its fully-grown counterparts. It even claims to have fewer carbohydrates than regular wheat because it’s young. It surprisingly has more dietary fiber content than brown rice, plus more calcium, iron, and potassium content. Perhaps that’s why I had a freekeh craving: I was hungry for nutrients.
This salad is incredibly simple and features spring’s amazing flavors. If you can find spring cabbage, definitely try it: the taste is sweeter and the texture softer than the heartier leaves available in fall and winter, and it’s perfect for eating raw like in this dish.
Instead of plating the salad in a bowl, I thought I’d use the cabbage leaves themselves. The contrast between the soft, smoky wheat and crisp leaves is amazing. The radish adds peppery crunch and the pea shoots deliver bittersweet, earthy taste. One of my more simple recipes, this is a great example of a meal that comes together with just a few elements. It’s freekeh-n delicious!
Earth Bowls with Freekeh
1 cup freekeh (available at natural food stores and middle-eastern supermarkets)
2 cups water
1 head spring cabbage (Duncan, Spring Hero, Oxheart)
1 bunch radishes (about 15), washed and sliced very thinly
1 bunch pea shoots (30g/1oz), rinsed
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. honey (or agave)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
a couple pinches sea salt
1. Pour the freekeh into a saucepan and cover with water. Swirl water and rub the grains together vigorously to wash them. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Add 2 cups water and a couple pinches sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the water is completely absorbed (about 15 minutes for cracked grain and 45 minutes for whole grain). Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to halt the cooking process and cool.
2. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for the dressing. Set aside.
3. Add the dressing to the slightly cooled freekeh, folding to incorporate. Fold in the radishes and about half of the pea shoots.
4. Remove cabbage leaves for serving. Mound about ½ cup freekeh salad in the center of each cabbage leaf, garnish with remaining pea shoots, and serve. You can also roll the cabbage leaves and seal them with a toothpick for easy transport (a great picnic food).