There is nothing freaky about freekeh. Freekeh is an ancient grain mentioned in Middle eastern cookbooks as far back as the 13th century. Popular with Lebanese, Egyptians, Iraqis, and Palestinians, Freekeh is actually wheat that has been harvested while still young and green, then sun dried and rubbed together to ensure uniform flavor, texture, and color. As a matter of fact the word freekeh is derived from the Arabic word “farik” which means rubbed together. I consider freekeh to be an untapped superfood with superior nutritional value. Just a ¼ cup of dried freekeh has 21 grams of fiber! So, not only is this grain low on the glycemic index, but it also has a respectable amount of protein, iron, and potassium. Make sure you rinse freekeh before using to remove any bitterness. The most popular treatment for this grain is in soups because freekeh lends a unique nutty flavor and hearty texture. This particular soup recipe is a hit with my family after Thanksgiving, when the weather is cold, I’m squeezed for time, and the leftover turkey is calling my name. You can however eliminate the turkey and sub veggie broth for chicken for a vegetarian option–which would make it a great post holiday detox! Because I use ready made chicken stock for this recipe, I try to add extra flavor with aromatic herbs, onions, and garlic. The finishing touch of lemon juice is optional, but is quite popular in the Middle East and adds another fresh surprising flavor. You can make this soup anytime of year, and use any kind of meat or beans instead of the turkey for extra protein. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and enjoy your leftovers!
If you are a new visitor, I made this trailer for you, to give you a taste of not only the Middle Eastern recipes I have demonstrated in the past, but a hint of what’s to come. For those that have subscribed to my channel or followed my blogs I want to give you a big thank you from the bottom of my heart! Networks have expressed interest in my show, but want to see big subscription and comment numbers. I figure, I will keep doing what I am doing because I love it, and love the feedback I have been getting from other Middle Eastern foodies. If you haven’t subscribed to my channel or blog please do–it’s free and you’ll be the first to get my videos and recipes! And with that…here is my kooky trailer!
If you are tired of the same old oatmeal then this blog is for you. Farro is an ancient grain, actually the oldest cultivated grain ever that originated from the Levantine region: Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine. The Egyptians then brought this grain to Italians, who combined this grain with pesto, seafood, and parmesan cheese, in salads, side dishes, and main entrees. In other words, Italians knew how to give this grain the respect it deserves. Now, farro is gaining popularity in the United States again because it is higher in protein and nutrients than modern hybrid wheat–each half cup serving has 6 grams of protein. Not only is farro filling, but it has a nice chewy texture that is more interesting than oatmeal, with a pleasant slightly sweet flavor that works with both sweet and savory dishes. Traditionally you have to wash farro well, picking out impurities such as bits of chaff, pebbles, or bad grains, and soak it for at least 8 hours. However, Trader Joes has done the work for us. Now they sell farro that is ready in just 10 minutes, and I now use farro instead of oatmeal for breakfast. In this recipe, I top Greek yogurt with the farro, sort of a substitute for granola, but you don’t need the yogurt if you dislike or can’t have dairy. I find this combination, with luscious persimmons, chewy cranberries, and crunchy almonds tastes like a fall dessert in a bowl. Let me know what you think if you try this recipe… and if you would like to see more grain based recipes like this hit like!
1 cup Quick cooking farro
2 cups almond milk (vanilla or regular, or can use regular milk)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract (omit if using vanilla yogurt)
1 cup Greek yogurt
3 tsp honey (or no honey if you want it less sweet)
1 large persimmon, cut into small chunks
2 tbs slivered almonds
2 tbs dried cranberries or golden raisins
Combine farro, almond milk, spices, and 2 tsp if honey into a saucepan, and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Let cool for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, combine yogurt, 2 tsp of honey, vanilla extract and divide into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with the farro, the persimmons, nuts, and cranberries. Serve warm.
One question I have gotten several times from subscribers is… how do I cook with tough cuts of meat like chuck? I am not a big meat eater, but I come from a family of carnivorous people. My daughter especially must have been a tiger in her other life. If she had it her way, breakfast would be a steak with a side of bacon and sausage, which might explain her gigantic growth spurts. Now when I do serve red meat, which is about 3 times a month, I like to use high quality meat. I would rather pay a lot of $$$ to a local farmer who is using humane and sustainable practices, and eat less beef, than pay only a little $ and eat confined-miserable-cows-fed-crappy-gmo-diet-then-killed-mercilessly-beef often. So, go to your local farmer’s market and see if you can get your hands on some organic free range pastured beef and notice the difference in quality. Just recently, My family and about 6 other families literally bought a cow from a local farmer, that we named Ernest (don’t ask my why, a long story.) I am not a beef fan, mostly because I love cows…but this beef was the best I have ever tasted in my life. No funky smell upon opening the packages, and pristine cuts of meat that had so much flavor I barely had to season them upon cooking. I used thyme to spice the meat, but for a more Middle Eastern flavor you can use allspice instead. Notice, I just use one spice. When you have meat this good, you really want it to shine and not get overpowered by too many other flavors. So, in dividing this cow, I got big cooler filled with cuts of meat I never worked with much, like chuck, because it is notorious for being tough. Hence, my slow cooker came to the rescue. And, let me tell you, by the time this chuck was done cooking in this method, it tasted better than any filet mignon. No. Lie. For working people like me, a lot of this meal can be prepared a day in advance. Then all you have to do is just assemble the day of and slow cook away while multitasking on a multitude of other tasks.
1 pound chuck or other stew meat, cut into cubes
2 tbs olive oil
2 large stalks of celery, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
Add salt and pepper to the beef pieces, and sear them in 1 tbs olive oil on high heat, until browned on the outside, Set aside. Then fill up your slow cooker with all the beautiful veggies and garlic(celery, carrots, zucchini). Mix veggies with more salt and pepper and thyme, Place meat pieces on top. Then, take sliced onions and saute them in the same pan in another TBS of olive oil as the chuck (should have meat juice in it) till lightly browned. (If you don’t take this step you will have gray meat in your slow cooker, not appetizing) Place browned onions on top of meat in slow cooker. Then pour about 1/2 cup chicken broth on top. Set that pile of goodness on slow cook method for 8 hours. The chuck, which is usually tough meat, becomes fork tender! Serve on a pile of mash potatoes, rice, polenta, or plain.
Hello Foodie Friends!
I have received lots of e-mails lately asking for even more specific directions for a lot of my recipes. I am excited to announce my new partnership with http://www.Curious.com, where my recipes are written in extra detail! Not only that, but each recipe also has a back story, giving extra historical information or family significance. This will be the next best thing to my cookbook, for which I am seeking a publisher. Curious.com is the hottest new virtual classroom, where you can learn about photography, cooking, home improvement projects, art, gardening, sports, health and beauty, as well as foreign languages. Many of these lessons are really inexpensive, ranging from free to 5 bucks to learn something new. However, Curious.com is now having a special, where you can get 20 free dollars to explore as you wish! So take a look, browse around, and let me know what you think. You can reach my page here: http://curious.com/feastinthemiddleeast Have a great weekend!
Ever look at the ingredient list in a store bought pastry? You might see a paragraph long list of chemicals, oils, and sugars that you do not understand. Next time you want to have some pastry for your weekend brunch, try my Puff Pastry with Mascarpone Cheese, Figs, and Almonds. I have to admit I don’t have the time to make my own puff pastry, but after finding an organic brand at Whole Foods, I decided to get creative. I used the flavors of the Middle East: figs and almonds and honey, and they turned out great–buttery, slightly sweet, with the surprising rich flavor of figs. You won’t find figs and pastry together in the supermarket, so this unique twist will be sure to delight your guests (that is, if they enjoy figs as much as I do!) If you have leftover mascarpone and fig jam, you can serve that in bowls as a parfait the next day with any combination of nuts–nothing should go to waste!
1 sheet puff pastry (11 by 8 inches)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey, divided in half
1 cup of sliced figs
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Thaw out pastry, and place on a lightly floured surface. Using a knife, cut into 8 square sections. Flatten the center of each square slightly, leaving a 1 inch rim. Then, using a fork, pierce the dough in the center several times.
Take sliced figs and 1/4 cup honey, and place in a sauce pan, stirring over medium heat until it boils, then set aside.
Place the mascarpone, egg, 1/4 cup honey, and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk to blend.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F.
Spread 1 tbs of the the mascarpone mixture in the center of each puff pastry square. Then place 1 tbs of fig jam over the mascarpone. Bake until the crust and filling are golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Top with slivered almonds.