New Side Dishes!

These measurements are just intended to be a guide. Put this together however suits you best.

2 cups Freekeh “Almanara” (green grilled wheat) – washed and drained *
Olive Oil
4 cups Chicken Broth
1 can Sadaf Pulp of Grilled Eggplant
1 medium onion, finely minced
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon cinnamon (I used almost twice this, actually – we like it that way)
salt to taste
Alleppo Pepper to taste
several roasted red peppers (I used about half a jar of Zergut Roasted Red Peppers, drained and chopped
about a cup and a half of pitted green Provencal olives with Herbs de Provence
slivered almonds
Feta cheese for garnish

Fry the washed and drained Freekeh in a bit of olive oil. It will take on a bit of a golden color. Basically just fry it over fairly high heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 or 6 minutes. Cover it with chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir one more time and then put a lid on the pan and reduce the heat. Cook for about an hour or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Add eggplant and cinnamon and cook until the mixture is mostly dry. Set aside.

Toast the slivered almonds (as many as you want – we REALLY like this part) in a pan with some olive oil. When they’re golden, skim them onto paper towels to drain. Dust with salt and Alleppo pepper. Set aside.

When the Freekeh is dryish, add the eggplant mixture, the chopped roasted red pepper and the olives. Stir to warm all ingredients through. Season pilaf at this time with salt to taste. The amount you use will depend upon things like how salty the broth is.

Serve immediately, garnished with feta cheese and slivered almonds.

* Note:  you could really use almost any grain.  The smokiness of the Freekeh is special, though.  Try it, if we have it.

A couple weeks ago we got in a some organic emmer (the Italians call it Farro) and spelt products from Lentz Farms in Eastern Washington. We got whole emmer and spelt berries and rolled emmer and spelt. We also got a nice cracked emmer cereal that I immediately knew I wanted to play with. I was also on orders from the boss to start creating recipes using Castelmagno* (a fairly rare cheese from the north of Italy).

What I did was to make polenta with the emmer cereal and it turned out beautifully.

First, I made a porcini mushroom broth (yes, we carry dried porcini at PFI). I made it simply by simmering the porcini with garlic, chopped onion and salt to make a dark, coffee-colored broth. You could add typical stock vegetables to this and you could roast those vegetables first. I didnt and was happy with the results for my use.

Once I had my broth, I slowly cooked the cereal with it (3 cups of broth to each cup of cereal) until the mixture was quite thick, even stiff. At that point I grated some of the Castelmagno (about 2 ounces of the grated cheesefor each cup of cereal) into the cooked cereal and stirred it well. I also added a few dried oregano leaves to the mixture. At this point you would salt and (white) pepper the polenta to taste.

You could, at this point, just serve it hot as a side dish for ragouts or meats. Or you could move onto the next step in our game. The choice is yours.

The next step:

Spread the mixture into a sort of cake about 1 thick onto a plate or cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Cool in the refrigerator until cold.

When the mixture is cold, remove it from the refrigerator and cut it into squares or diamonds or whatever shapes make you happy. Its easiest if the shapes fit comfortably on your food-turner (spatula). Chill the shapes again briefly.

Remove them once again from the refrigerator and brush them with a good, grassy extra virgin olive oil. Grill them over a quick hot fire, until nicely marked and heated through. About 4 minutes per side should do the trick. We like to grill over rosemary wood (its plentiful in our yard).

You may serve these hot as side dishes or you may let them cool (on a rack and not in the refrigerator or youll lose your nice crispy bits) and use them as bases for canapé-style appetizers. Again, the choice is yours.

* Note:  we don't carry Castelmagno anymore.  You may substitute almost any hard, salty cheese in its place.