Friday, March 6, 2009

Roasted Green Wheat with Artichoke hearts

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Meet "Freekeh", roasted green wheat with a delicious smokey flavor. I recently fell in love with this grain. Freekeh is pretty much a staple back home, and is usually cooked with vegetables and/or meats. The production of freekeh is highly proprietary and the techniques of turning green wheat into freekeh are usually kept as the family secret.

As a child, I was a very picky eater and this would have been something I refused to try. Since I discovered it at my local mediterranean market, I started using it in place of rice or pasta. Because of its bold flavor, it pairs well with relatively mild-tasting ingredients. I get very excited when I find a new ingredient and my mind starts assembling a list of ideas to try out. Here is one that actually turned out pretty amazing (to my surprise).

Freekeh stuffed artichokes

I love artichokes and I wanted to incorporate some in a dish. This recipe came to me on a whim and it's very simple to make. I started with rinsing the freekeh a few times, then soaking it for a couple of hours before cooking. Soaking it will shorten the cooking time, but is optional. I made the tomato sauce, cooked the freekeh, sauteed onions and shiitake mushrooms, then assembled all elements and finished in the oven. Yummy!

10-12 artichoke hearts
1/2 lb ground bison
3/4 cup Freekeh
1 1.2 cup water
4 cups tomato sauce (recipe follows)
1 medium white onion, diced
1 cup shiitaki mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp allspice berries powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Before you assemble the dish, you want to cook the freekeh to an almost done level. After rinsing a couple of times, strain and let dry off a little. On medium heat, add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a non-stick skillet, add the freekeh and sautee a little. Once warmed, add the 1 1/2 cup of water and cover. Let simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until the grain is al dente. Turn off heat and set aside in a medium size bowl.
In the same skillet, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and sliced mushrooms and onions. Sautee mixture until tender and pour over the freekeh.
Again, uisng the same skillet, add 2 more Tbsp olive oil and the bison meat, ground turmeric, allspice berries, salt and pepper and sautee until evenly cooked. Pour over the freekeh mixture.
Toss the mixture together until well blended and adjust seasoning if needed.

Tomato Sauce Recipe:

1 can 28oz fire-roasted diced tomatoes ( I like Muir Organic brand)
1/2 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp basil, finely chopped
3-4 sunchokes, peeled and sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp oregano, dried
1 tsp mint, dried
1/4 turmeric powder

Sautee the garlic in the olive oil until it softens, add sunchokes and continue sauteeing for 3 minutes. Add basil, diced tomatoes, and all the spices. With an immersion blender, puree the sauce, leaving some chunks of tomatoes. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Done!

To assemble, ladle some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole. Line the artichoke hearts and stuff with the freekeh mixture. Ladle of the rest of the sauce over the stuffed artichoke hearts, cover and bake in the over for 30 minutes at 375'F. Remove and sprinkle the cilantro on top. Serve with extra tomato sauce and a nice crusty whole wheat baguette.

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