“What’s freekeh?”, you might be saying. Freekeh is an ancient form of wheat that is truly delicious. Nutty in flavor and creamy in texture, you can replace the rice in risotto or paella with this fun little grain for a more flavorful and faster cooking twist on such classics. Freekeh is also higher in fiber and protein than rice, so why not try it? (It is not, however, gluten free! So keep that in mind when preparing for those with an intolerance.)
The key to this creamy, risotto like, dish is to use some really delicious, collagen-rich stock. Stock is the main building block for flavor and a super creamy texture. My favorite is made with chicken and venison bones, but a mix of beef bones and chicken wings is a great substitute. Many specialty grocers and butchers now sell bone broth, so you don’t have to make it yourself if you’re not much into D.I.Y.-ing. If I haven’t convinced you of the superior flavor of bone broth, the many health benefits of it are further reason to consider it (many resources online explain why).
Cooking the cauliflower and zucchini until very tender also contributes to the creamy texture. I like the slightly cheesy flavor of yellow/orange cauliflower (a.k.a. “citrus cauliflower”), but regular white cauliflower will do fine as a substitute.
Note: The freekeh absorbs quite a bit of liquid when soaking, so you’ll probably want to use a bigger bowl than you think you’ll need for that initial step. Of course, you can skip the pre-soak, but I recommend it, since it makes the grains more digestible and quicker cooking.
Yellow Cauliflower and Squash Freekeh Bowl with Manchego
1 cup cracked freekeh, soaked overnight (if you forget or don’t have time, increase broth by 1 1/2 cups and cook additional 10-20 minutes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, torn or cut into large pieces
2 yellow zucchini/summer squash, medium dice
1 small/medium head yellow “citrus” cauliflower (about 1.25 lbs), cut into small florets (white cauliflower is a fine substitute)
3 cups rich homemade stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
about 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
half bunch parsley, very finely chopped
4 ounces Manchego cheese, cut into ¼” chunks
micogreens or more fresh parsley, to serve
What to do:
Drain and rinse soaked freekeh, then set aside.
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, shallots, garlic, and mushrooms, cooking until softened, about 2 minutes. Add squash, cauliflower, drained freekeh, thyme and stock. Stir well, bring to a simmer and cover. Continue to cook until freekeh is cooked through and vegetables are nice and soft, about 20-30 minutes. It’s best to stir a few times during cooking to prevent sticking and to increase creamy texture. Don’t worry about the vegetables getting mashed- that’ll just make it more creamy:).
Uncover, taste to confirm that the grains are finished cooking, and stir in parsley and cheese. Adjust for salt and pepper and top with microgreens or more fresh parsley to serve.
Great served with a peppery arugula salad and some baked chicken or white fish for protein.