Monday, February 02, 2015

Freekeh with Grape Leaves and Feta

Browsing the very excellent food site Food 52 the other day, I found an intriguing recipe for something the recipe writer called a grape leaf pilaf. It wasn't actually a pilaf, as she directs the rice should be cooked "as instructed on package," which means boiled or steamed. I thought I might like to make it as an actual pilaf, browning the rice with onions then simmering it in a seasoned broth. We already had a jar of grape leaves in the cupboard, which I had purchased for an abandoned project. All we needed was the feta and herbs, and some sort of protein to go with it. Lamb seemed to make sense, and we had that, too.

Once I had everything together, I realized that rice would make a better accompaniment for the chicken dish I planned to make the following day. I found a bag of freekeh, a roasted green wheat product, in the cupboard (lord, there's so many weird things in there) and thought I could give that a spin. I had never worked with the stuff before, hadn't even tasted it, so rather than make pilaf, I cooked it in the rice cooker. The package indicated that it should be cooked like rice, with twice as much water as grain. I still wasn't going to have a pilaf, so I'm not calling it that.

The freekeh smelled wonderful as it was cooking, and tasted rich and nutty. The texture is a little crunchy, like brown rice or bulgur. It really was the perfect grain to use with tangy grape leaves and feta cheese and made the dish into something far more interesting than boring old steamed rice could have done.

For the meaty aspect of the dish, I made meatballs out of a mixture similar to this one, only without the nuts or spices other than salt, pepper, and garlic. I also roasted some grape tomatoes to add a bit of sweetness to the otherwise tangy meal. It was riiiillly good. Hearty, yet light, full of flavors and textures. Definitely a keeper. The freekeh would go well with chicken or shrimp, too.

Freekeh with Grape Leaves and Feta

1 cup freekeh
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 cup chopped grape leaves from a jar
1/4 cup chopped dill leaves
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper
Crumbled feta cheese

Cook freekeh as you would rice (or according to package directions).

While freekeh is cooking, saute onion in a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add chopped grape leaves, herbs (reserving some for garnish), and lemon juice. When freekeh is done cooking, add it to the pan of onions and grape leaves. Stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning and add freshly ground pepper and a bit of salt, if needed. (The grape leaves are quite salty, so you might not need to add any additional.)

Before serving, drizzle freekeh with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle on the feta and reserved herbs. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.

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