Monday, March 24, 2014

The Dietitian Is In: Get Your Freekeh On!

When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!

Question: I’ve seen freekeh in my natural food store; what is it?

Photo courtesy of Freekeh Foods

Freekeh is quickly becoming one of the hottest food products to hit the health food market. This ancient grain has been cultivated for centuries in Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, and is quickly gaining in popularity in the U.S. due to its powerhouse nutritional profile and versatility in the kitchen. In Arabic, freekeh means “to rub,” which is fitting, as freekeh results when young wheat is subjected to a roasting and rubbing process. Typically, durum, a specific variety of wheat that is high in protein and is often found in breads and pasta, is used. While the wheat kernels develop a smoky flavor, they do not burn during roasting because of the immature seeds’ high moisture content. Freekeh is a low-glycemic, high-fiber (8 grams per cup) grain, rich in protein (4 grams per cup) and other nutrients, such as eye-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin. Its mild, nutty flavor and easy preparation method—it cooks up in 20 minutes—makes it a wonderful substitution for brown rice and other popular whole grains. Try adding it to soups, enjoying it as a hot breakfast cereal, or using in salads or side dishes, such as the recipe below.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Freekeh Salad

Whole meal salads are a perfect way to start the work week as they make for such great leftovers. This salad in particular is so satisfying since it’s packed with fiber and plant-based protein – and, it’s just really delicious! Serve it over a bed of leafy greens or sprinkle on some seeds or nuts for even more plant-powered punch.

1 medium sweet potato
1-2 tablespoons, extra virgin olive oil
2 cups Freekeh (or other whole grain of your choice, such as quinoa, brown rice, farro, bulgur, etc.)
2 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
½ avocado
Salt & pepper to taste

For dressing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey

1.      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.      Clean the sweet potato well, by rinsing under cold water and then patting dry. Cube the sweet potato in 1 inch pieces, and place in a medium sized bowl.
3.      Drizzle the sweet potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Stir to coat the sweet potatoes evenly with the oil.
4.      Place oiled sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping the potatoes half-way through.
5.      To prepare Freekeh (or grain of your choice), cook according to directions on the package:
6.      Cube the ½ avocado into 1 inch pieces.
7.      Mix the sweet potato, quinoa, black beans (rinsed), and diced avocado in a large bowl.
To prepare dressing: Whisk the dressing ingredients (olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and honey). Add to the salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe was developed by us for Sharon Palmer’s Monthly Column, Dietitians’ Favorite Plant-Powered Meals.

The Q & A was written by McKenzie  for the July 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.

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