I’m not sure which I’m more excited about: lovely yellow and green beans that I grow in our garden, or the slightly nutty, whole grain organic freekeh from a regional (nearly local) source. If you ever have a garden and want to feel like a farmer, grow bush beans. With two eight-foot lines side-by-side in my tiny in-town (in-lawn) garden, we have been yielding a couple of quarts of beans a week for over a month, and we’re not done. There’s nothing quite like stepping outside the kitchen door, picking something and having it on the plate within 10 minutes. Or less, if you think ahead enough to put the water on to boil. But those are fleeting moments.
Freekeh, on the other hand, endures year-round and is a staple of the diets of many nationalities, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East. Maybe further afield. On the East Coast U.S. it is grown by the participants in Cayuga Organics, located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It requires less fertilizer than other types of wheat, so I hear, and therefore is a candidate for organic production. Our local health food store stocks it and I became intrigued when blogging about cooking with local ingredients during the dark days of winter. Freekeh comes from slow-roasted green spelt berries (spelt is a type of wheat lower in gluten than most). Freekeh is produced as whole berries and is also cracked. Mine was cracked and cooked in about 35-40 minutes. I used a ratio of 1.5:1 water to grain, meaning 1½ cup of water to 1 cup of grain, starting them together in a pan (unlike other grains that you add to boiling water) and simmering them until tender.
Freekeh tastes like intense, robust cracked wheat and has none of the slightly pasty quality of its cousin couscous. I like it as a robust and flavorful base for summer salads. Here, I combined cooked freekeh with cubed salted cucumber and diced mint, tossed with light vinaigrette. Surrounded with my oh-so-local beans, this was a refreshing supper on a hot summer day.