Freekah Kale Salad

In the Middle East and growing up we never consumed Freekah in a salad.  I paired it with honey roasted sweet potatos and kale and it was perfect.  So filling, healthy and the right amount of sweetness and smokiness. 

Freekay, Freek, Freekah is an ancient whole grain that is harvested when it's still young and green, then it's roasted and rubbed to create a unique smokey flavor.  Across the Middle East freekah is prepared usually with lamb or chicken or as a soup (which I love and thinking about making it tonight!).  Freekah has been around for centuries but Oprah featured it on an episode in 2010 and since then it's become more popular.  

The freekah process was actually discovered by accident almost four thousand years ago in the Middle East, most sources agree.  The story is a group of villagers were trying to protect their wheat crop from an enemy attack so they harvested the unripe grain.  The enemy still set the crop on fire but because of the moisture inherent in the green kernel only the dryer outer shells were charred.  The grains were then rubbed together, hence the name "freekah" which means "to be rubbed", and the shells were removed.  The wheat was saved and a new grain smokey grain was discovered.  

The superfood grain is also mentioned the Old Testament.  In book Leveticus Chapter 2 verse 14, the verse says "when you bring a meal offering of the first grain to the Lord you shall bring your first grain meal offering from "barley" as soon as it ripens parched over the fire, kernels full in their husks "ground into" coarse meal.  

Freakah is packed with fiber, more than twice the amount of quinoa and three times the amount of brown rice!  It's also high in iron and a good amount of protein, a true super food.  There is an Australian study (read it here) that shows that because the freekah is harvested young it retains more of the fiber, proteins and minerals than mature wheat.   

It used to be hard to find freekah in the local supermarkets and my mom would have to wait until someone was traveling from the Middle East to bring some back with them.  So eating freakah when I was young was always special.  Luckily, I can find it at Whole Foods now but my mother in law does bring me some whenever she visits because it seems the grain from the Middle East is larger and greener.  

Because the freakah is roasted there are sometimes burnt pieces that are dangerous because they become so hard they can crack a tooth.  Although the freekah cooks in roughly 20 mins the most time consuming part used to be sorting through each freakah to remove the burnt pieces.  My grandmother and aunts would make a morning get together out of it.  They would get the kids together, drink tea, catch up and sort through their freekah.  Nowadays, the freekah I buy from the supermarket is already sorted through but out of habit I still do a quick sorting through just to make sure no one will break their teeth eating my freekah.  

Freekah is sold in two kinds;  whole and cracked.  Cracked is basically whole freekah broken down even further.  Whole freekah takes a little bit longer to cook and has a slightly different texture.  It takes about 35-40 minutes while cracked freekah takes about 15- 20 minutes.   There are different ways to make it too; some cook it like they do pasta, boiling it in water or stock and discarding the excess liquid.  While others cook it until all the liquid is absorbed.  I cook it 1 cup of freekah to 2 1/4 cup of stock for about 20 minutes.