Hang on, we’re about to get freekeh! OK, so it’s actually pronounced freek-ah, but I’m seldom funny, so let’s just go with it.
Freekeh is an ancient grain, full of beneficial nutrients. It is high in fiber, protein and calcium and it even has probiotic properties. Pretty impressive, huh? Even though Freekeh has been around for many thousands of years, it is suddenly becoming one of the newest and most delicious super foods! So, when the kind people at Freekehlicious asked if they could send me some and if I could develop some recipes, I was really excited!
There is something about this type of grain salad that, to me, is completely satisfying. Once cooked and cooled a bit, you can really turn those grains into a complete meal. One really great advantage of using freekeh in a salad like this is how high it is in protein, so once you add your favorite veggies, nuts and dressing, you’ve created a meal in a bowl. Leftovers pack up so easily for lunches during the week too!
I knew I wanted to incorporate seasonal ingredients. Eating what’s in season is always best, as far as taste and nutrition. Butternut squash is readily available in stores and farm stands now. If you think it may not be your favorite, I dare you to try roasting it this way. Once you cube it in small bites, toss with some olive oil and roast it, the squash develops caramelized bits and tastes sweet and really delicious. I think cranberries go so well with butternut squash and their color looks so pretty against the orange bits. Throw in some toasted pecans (Do you say pi-kahn or pee-can? I say both…depending on the moment!) and this may even become your family’s most favorite Thanksgiving side dish!
Butternut and Cranberry Freekeh Salad
1 C. wholegrain freekeh
3 C. water
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 – 2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C. orange juice
1 t. honey
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/2 C. dried cranberries (I use the low sugar variety)
Combine the freekeh and the water in a large saucepan over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for 40 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to sit covered while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
On a large baking sheet, toss the butternut squash cubes with the olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and allspice. Use your hands to get them coated well.
Roast the squash in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until fork tender. Don’t over roast the cubes or they’ll become too mushy. When done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside to cool.
Spread the pecans evenly on a small baking sheet. Shut the oven off, but while it’s still hot, place the pecans in and shut the door. Allow them to toast for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients up to the black pepper. Whisk together and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the freekeh and the cranberries. Toss with the dressing until completely coated. Now add the squash and pecans and toss lightly.