Recipe: Freekeh Salad With Sweet Potato and Preserved Lemon

Appearing in many regional meat and vegetable dishes, soups, and stews, freekeh (pronounced "free-kah") has a characteristic smoked aroma and a toasted, mildly sweet flavor. It contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals than most grains, and up to four times the fiber content of brown rice, though it has hardly any gluten, since it is harvested before its protein develops.

Serves 2 to 4

For the freekah:
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 cup freekeh, rinsed and any debris or grit removed.
    • ½ large onion, chopped
    • 1 ½ cup boiling water or stock
    • 1 tablespoon salt

For the roasted sweet potato:
    • 1 large sweet potato, washed and diced, unpeeled
    • several thyme sprigs
    • crushed sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • olive oil
    • ¾ cup cilantro leaves, washed and chopped (or a mixture of herbs such as flat leaf parsley, chopped dill, scallion or chives)
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon
    • 1 red chili, seeded, cut into short strips and finely chopped
    • cold-pressed sunflower oil
    • crushed sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • handful of shelled pumpkin seeds, roasted

Roast the sweet potatoes:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the diced sweet potato with the salt, pepper, thyme and olive oil. Place in a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes, until cooked through. Allow to cool.

Prepare the freekeh:
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sauté the chopped onion until lightly colored, then add the freekeh and stir for two to three minutes, until it is coated and glistening with oil. Add the boiling water (or stock, if using) and a good pinch of salt, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium-low heat and cover for 17 minutes. Do not lift the cover, as that will let the steam out and slow down the cooking process.

When the freekeh is done remove from the heat and allow to rest, covered, for another five minutes. Use a fork lightly to fluff up the grains.

Assemble the salad:
Place the roasted sweet potato, freekeh, cilantro, chili and preserved lemon in a mixing bowl. Season with the sunflower oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Sprinkle with the roasted pumpkin seeds and serve with a good-quality tahini on the side.

To read Nomi Abeliovich's post about Israel's increasingly popular ancient grain, click here for the story.