Roasted green wheat, or freekeh, is an ancient food that is perfect for a healthful modern lifestyle. The nutritious grain has an earthy, smoky taste. It is low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and rich in probiotics.
In Turkey, it is never cooked by itself but rather mixed with other ingredients to mellow its assertive flavor. In author Nur Ilkin's home town, green wheat is often combined with chickpeas, bulgur and lamb or chicken.
Freekeh and coarsely ground bulgur are available in Mediterranean and Iranian markets. Aleppo pepper, a fruity pepper with moderate heat, is sold at Whole Foods Markets, Penzeys and La Cuisine in Alexandria (703-836-4435) as well as Mediterranean and Iranian markets.
Serve with salad and plain yogurt.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 2 cups roasted green wheat (freekeh; see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 pound chicken tenderloins, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (see headnote)
- 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed
- 1 tablespoon red pepper paste
- 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (preferably a no-salt added brand such as Eden)
- 1 cup coarse bulgur (see headnote)
Spread the roasted green wheat on a rimmed baking sheet; use your fingers to carefully sift through it and remove any grit or impurities. Transfer to a fine-mesh strainer and shake from side to side to strain out further impurities.
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then add the chicken pieces and cook for several minutes, until they turn pale; they will not be cooked through.
Season with salt and black pepper to taste, then the Aleppo pepper; stir to incorporate. Add the warm chicken broth and red pepper paste; mix well and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then stir in the roasted green wheat, chickpeas and bulgur. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until all of the broth has been absorbed. Remove from the heat.
Uncover and place a double layer of paper towels over the saucepan. Replace the lid and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
When ready to serve, uncover and discard the paper towels. Stir the mixture, and transfer to a platter.
Adapted from "The Turkish Cookbook," by Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman (Interlink, 2010).
Tested by Nicole Schofer.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.