I feel like Remy in Ratatouille every time I make this dish. My mouth watered at the scene where Ego took his first bite. And when, during a recent visit to a Vaidya, I was told to focus on dishes that have plenty of cooked, seasonal veggies, I was excited at the variety of delightful meals I can prepare. So I started making a list of dishes that I want to try, pulling from a vast Mid Eastern repertoire.
I didn’t always cook daily. Pre-kids, salad and cheeses would be just enough for us to chow on. But now, it all changed. I have to make sure that there is something everyday suitable for Sophie and Zayn to try. Although my daughter is quite adventurous at 18 months, Zayn, who is three, is extremely picky, with a very limited palate. But the good thing is that he always chooses fruits and vegetables over anything else!
So when I was preparing lunch, Sophie went for the bowl of Freekeh that I had set aside, and munched on the raw grains!! While Zayn chose to pick leaves off the mint bed and carefully nibbled on them. Freekeh is getting its fifteen minutes of fame these days. A highly nutritious grain that is made from green roasted wheat. You can easily find it in bulk or packages at any Mediterranean market, or could pay premium for the fancy packages at health food stores. Either way it’s a great alternative to other grains, and has a beautiful smoked aroma and flavor. I thought it would be a great addition to a traditional vegetable stew or ratatouille.
1 medium eggplant, alternate peeling
1 large onion, thick sliced
2 yellow zucchinis, cut in chunks
2 green zucchinis, cut in chunks
2 large tomatoes, ripe and diced or 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup freekeh, washed and drained
3 cups water (for freekeh)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp coriander powder
Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the freekeh: Wash and drain grains and place in pot, add water, pinch of salt and cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 30-40 minutes or until grain is soft. Turn off heat and set aside.
In a large pot, begin with one tablespoon of olive oil and in it saute onion slices until soft. Add eggplants and 2 tablespoons of oil. Toss gently until eggplant turns brownish. Add all zucchinis, tomatoes and the last tablespoon of oil, coriander, salt and pepper. Gently toss and let simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes. Add freekeh to vegetables and toss gently and adjust seasonings. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then turn off heat. Toss in mint chiffonade. Serve hot or room temperature.