blissful eats with tina jeffers: Freekah pilaf with spiced caramelized onions, cherries and pistachios
It's that time of year when we are all trying to eat better and recover from our holiday gluttony. I am trying to avoid eating processed food so it does mean spending a little bit more time prepping in the kitchen but the benefits far outweigh the hassle. I have to think a little bit more creatively but when I start cooking mainly with vegetables, fruits and whole grains I am reminded how much I love them and how simple they can be to prepare.
I am always on the lookout for new ingredients to experiment with in the kitchen. Here is a dish that features one of my favorite new discoveries, freekah. What is freekeh, you ask? It’s smoked green wheat that is harvested young so it has more protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals than its mature counterparts. It is low on the glycemic index, low in carbohydrates and high in protein, making it a great alternative to white or even brown rice. If you can’t find freekah, you could easily substitute wheat berries, which have a very similar texture, but it won’t have the same smoky undertones that are distinctive to this ancient grain.
The spices add a nice warmth and depth of flavor. You could use dried cherries if you can't find fresh and you could plump them up in a little orange juice to rehydrate them. This dish is great on it’s own for a light lunch or to make it a complete meal it’s delicious with some grilled chicken or for a vegetarian version try serving it with some lentils. To make this dish vegan just omit the feta. Enjoy!
Freekah pilaf with spiced caramelized onions, cherries and pistachios
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion thinly sliced
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups freekah or wheat berries
1 cup fresh cherries
½ cup pistachios, toasted and finely chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and the remaining teaspoon of salt to a boil, add the freekah and cook uncovered until the freekah is tender but still retains some bite, about 45 minutes. Drain and set aside while you prepare the onions.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally and reduce the heat to low once they have softened slightly. Cook until caramelized and golden about 20 to 25 minutes. Add the cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and cloves and continue to cook for 2 minutes or so until the mixture is fragrant.
To finish, add the freekah and balsamic vinegar to the onion mixture and cook for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Gently fold in the cherries and pistachios and sprinkle the feta over the top.