Thursday, January 1, 2015

Freekeh with Greens, Fennel and Chile: A Happy, Healthy Dish for the New Year!

Are you a resolution person? Although I am not a big believer in setting a bunch of goals in January that usually don't last the month, the new year is a time of renewal. And, it's always a good time to stop the holiday eating 'madness' and get something healthy into your body. Something like this Freekeh with Greens, Fennel and Chile, adapted from a recipe from Diana Henry's Plenty. A healthy dish that could be a main dish with perhaps some beans or meaty mushrooms added, but works perfectly as a side dish when paired with some simple pan-grilled salmon. 

This was meant to be Farro with Greens, Fennel and Chile but although I was positive I had a package of farro in the pantry, when I went to make this dish it was not to be found. (Maybe my resolution should be to clean and inventory my pantry?!) Although I think this dish would be delightful with nuttier, chewier farro as Henry intended, it will work with any of your favorite grains. It goes well with the freekeh I had in my cupboard and requires less cooking time than with the farro--always a bonus. I made a few other changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Diana Henry says, "If you think healthy food is punishingly dull, try this. It's spicy, nutty, leafy, and glossy with olive oil. Delicious.

Freekeh with Greens, Fennel, and Chile 
Adapted from Plenty by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

4 Tbsp olive oil (I reduced to 2 Tbsp)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
(I added 2 medium fennel bulbs, finely chopped)
3/4 cup farro (I used freekeh)
about 3 cups chicken/veggie stock or water (I used 2 cups mixed veggie broth & water)
1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped, (or to taste)
3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 small Savoy cabbage, (about 9 oz), leaves shredded (I used Napa cabbage)
3 oz frisée and arugula leaves (I used 4 oz baby arugula)
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil to serve
(I added about 1oz Marcona almonds, chopped)

Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and celery (and fennel). Cook over medium heat until soft but not colored. Stir in the farro (freekeh) and a enough water to come about 1 1/2 inches above the level of the grain. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 35 minutes (35 minutes for farro, about 20 minutes for freekeh) or until the grain is tender but with bite. Try not to stir; you don't want to release any starch. The liquid will be absorbed; if it gets too dry, add water.

Heat remaining oil in a large frying pan. Add chile, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for 2 minutes or until garlic is soft. Add the cabbage and a splash of water, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium-low heat, until cabbage wilts. Uncover, add the other greens and wilt for about 1 minute. Add the cooked grain mixture, season well, increase the heat and stir.

To serve, place in a heated serving dish and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. (Top with chopped almonds or other nuts if desired.)   

Notes/Results: A very pleasing dish, really a warm grain salad. I like the heartiness of the freekeh, mixed with the slight bitterness of the baby arugula and milder Napa cabbage. The bites of red chile, garlic, and fennel seed are a nice touch, as are the pieces of fennel I added. I felt like it needed a bit of crunch so I added a scattering of toasted Marcona almonds on top. Reducing the olive oil a bit reduces the calories and it wasn't missed--especially with the nuts on top. Besides enjoying it with the salmon, I stirred some chickpeas into the leftovers and ate them as more of a main dish. Healthy and tastes great--I would make it again.

This post is linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Happy, Healthy!--good for you dishes that taste great and make your belly happy. You can see what everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.

Have a Happy & Healthy 2015!


  1. I'm ready to start eating my greens and veggies again! And this salad sounds like the perfect place to start.

  2. It was! Looks like the fish and salad/salad-ish combo was a hit for both of us this week. ;-)

  3. Yay to greens and veggies! ;-)

  4. I am really loving grain salads lately. And, I think you should come and practice inventorying my pantry as a warm up before you do yours! (I have a soup this week for Sunday (Friday's potato soup).

  5. Oh, my pantry is a downright disaster! It really needs some attention. I had a good chuckle when reading this though because I have a ton of grains in my pantry and I always get them confused. Freekah, farro, amaranth, quinoa, and on and on. They look similar when you glance in at them quickly!

    At any rate, I love this grain salad (no matter which grain you chose)! I think the sprinkle of marcona almonds on top is a great addition. A little crunch is always a welcome texture (YO got me hooked on toasted and buttered pine nuts). Also love the addition of cabbage and arugula. I imagine that's a great flavor combination.

  6. Definitely a healthy start to 2015!

  7. I love grain and vegetable dishes like this one....they are so versatile in the way they can be served and Diana Henry does them so well.

  8. A delicious healthy start to 2015! I have not tried freekeh before, it is an ingredient which I have yet to find over here.
    I need to clear my pantry too, lots of leftovers bits and pieces lying around!

  9. Never heard of freekeh. Glad to learn something new! :)

  10. Couscous & ConsciousnessJanuary 5, 2015 at 1:45 PM

    I've been wanting to try freekeh for ages, but up until recently it hasn't been available where I live. My Mediterranean supply store has just started stocking it though. This recipe looks like a great one to start with - love your addition of the fennel and almonds, and I know I would love it with a bit of salmon on the side.


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