Freekeh Seafood Risotto
If you haven’t heard, whole grains are going to be a top food trend for 2016. By this point, you’re probably familiar with quinoa, the super-grain that is found everywhere, from cereals to salads. But there is a whole supermarket aisle that is bursting with new grains just waiting for you to try. And one of those grains waiting in the wings is Freekeh.
Freekeh (also called farik or frikeh) is an Arabian grain with roots in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Young green wheat is roasted and dried, giving it a chewy texture and nutty, smoky flavor. Legend has it that Freekeh was discovered by accident when the nascent green wheat was set on fire over 2,000 years ago in the Middle East. After rubbing off the burnt casing of the grain, the farmers decided to try it out- turns out it was quite a tasty mistake! Farik is Arabic for “rubbing”- and so “Freekeh” was born.
What makes Freekeh a super-grain is the high nutritional value it offers. This high protein and high fiber food makes it a winning addition to any meal. The fiber found in Freekeh will not only keep you feeling fuller longer (a bonus for anyone watching their waistline), but also offers prebiotic benefits to help grow healthy gut bacteria. And Freekeh’s high protein content is a great sub for any Meatless Monday, vegetarian, or vegan dish. You’ll find Freekeh in two forms- whole and cracked. Nutritionally both forms are fairly similar, however the cracked form cooks more quickly- perfect for weekday meals and side dishes!
As a newbie to Freekeh, Freekeh Foods generously supplied me with their Original, Rosemary Sage, and Tamari varieties and gave me creative freedom to play around in the kitchen. So this will not be the last Freekeh recipe you’ll be seeing.
My first inspiration was to take advantage of the chewy texture and swap it out for traditional arborio rice in risotto. Freekeh offers 4g of fiber and 6g of protein per 1/4 cup serving, versus 2g of fiber and 4g of protein found in the same serving of arborio rice. Mr E and I are seafood fanatics, and I knew that if I was going to make a healthy swap to risotto (one of Mr E’s favorites), adding seafood would help ease him into the change. And it turns out, Freekeh is a perfect alternative to a traditional risotto dish.
This Freekeh Seafood Risotto recipe is fairly simple to make, however, if you have ever made risotto, you are aware of one major factor- the stirring. The secret to a great risotto is adding the liquid one cup at a time, and constantly stirring. This not only helps the Freekeh absorb the liquid making it extra chewy, but most importantly, prevents sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once your Freekeh (or any grain) sticks to the bottom a risotto pan, it’s game over. The whole process can take 30-45 minutes. So pull up a chair next to your stove, pour yourself a glass of wine, hit play on your favorite Spotify playlist, and get stirring when the time comes.
The best pan you can use for risotto is any large non-stick pan. I absolutely swear by my Le Creuset Braising Pan for any risotto dish. Not only will it help prevent sticking, but it’s a breeze to clean. You will need a lid for this recipe when it comes time to cook the seafood, especially the clams. The seafood will cook directly in the Freekeh, which helps add flavor. While any Freekeh variety will work, I went with the Rosemary Sage variety. The liquid used in this dish can be vegetable broth, however if it is available to you, seafood broth (my personal recipe coming soon!) will give the dish an added richness. For this particular recipe, I used canned seafood broth, but due to the high sodium factor of the canned broth, I would suggest doing half canned seafood and half vegetable broth to cut down the salty factor.
The richness of Freekeh Seafood Risotto is perfect to enjoy on a cold winter night. It’s a great dish to make together, and having a partner is perfect for the stirring part. A little of this dish goes a long way, and the flavors will continue to enhance as the dish sits, making it a tasty meal to enjoy in leftover form.
Try out this Freekeh Seafood Risotto for your next stay-in date night. Tell me what you think by giving a shout in the Comments below.
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- 6-7 cups seafood stock or combo of seafood and vegetable stock- see Notes
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 TB unsalted butter
- 4 TB olive oil divided
- 2 shallots diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3/4 C Rosemary Sage Freekeh
- 1/2 C dry white wine
- 2 C shiitake mushrooms stems removed and sliced thin
- 8 shrimp cleaned with tails on (approx 1/4 lb)
- 8 scallops feet removed (approx 1/4 lb)
- 8 littleneck clams cleaned and intact
- 1/3 C grated parmesan cheese
- 2 TB fresh chopped rosemary
- Combine the seafood/vegetable stock and rosemary sprigs in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Heat butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the shallot and garlic, and sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the Freekeh to the pan, and stir to coat with oil & butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the wine, and cook until it's reduced by 3/4.
- Add 1 cup of stock to the pan; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until liquid has been absorbed.
- Repeat with the remaining 5 cups of stock, and discard the rosemary sprigs. Stir continuously. If the Freekeh still feels a little tough, you may want to add an additional cup of stock. This process can take 30-45 minutes.
- When the second to last last cup of stock is added, add the raw shrimp and scallops and stir to cook.
- With the last cup of stock, add in the clams. Cover, and allow to cook 3-5 minutes, removing cover to stir occasionally, preventing Freekeh from sticking to pan. Clams will pop open when they are done. Discard any clams that do not open. Remove clams from pan and temporarily place in separate bowl.
- While the Freekeh cooks, saute the mushrooms. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and stir in the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.
- After the last addition of stock has been absorbed, remove the pan from the heat, add the sauteed mushrooms, parmesan cheese and chopped rosemary to the Freekeh, and stir to combine. Add the clams back into the mixture and serve.
- Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and chopped rosemary.
- Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from The Corner Kitchen.
1 serving=304 calories, 15g fat (3g sat fat), 26g carbs, 3g fiber, 16g protein, 715 mg sodium (Source: SELF Nutrition Data)
DISCLAIMER: I was given samples of Freekeh by Freekeh Foods. I was not monetarily compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are of my own.