Inspire your inner poet with whole grain dish

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Betty Williams Columnist, The Friday Flyer

Betty Williams
Columnist, The Friday Flyer

In flipping through my daughter’s World Literature textbook this past week, I had to smile at the wonderful things she would be learning this year: character development, plot, themes, and settings as they relate to literature of the ancient and modern worlds. Plus, poems.

Now I think I just heard some of you groan. Poetry has that effect on people. It seems people either really enjoy it or really don’t. But most people have probably forgotten that poetry takes many forms. (It has been a while since high school for some of us.)

There are ballads, elegies, epic poems, narrative poems, pastoral poems, sonnets, and the list goes on. All told, there are around 55 different types of poem forms.

So if the shores of Lake Gitchee Gumee in “The Song of Hiawatha” just doesn’t do it for you, let it be known you aren’t an epic poem kind of person. But, be encouraged; there are 54 other poem forms you may like.

While all this poetic pondering was enjoyable, there was still the matter of dinner. I was excited to make the side dish that night, as I was trying out yet another whole grain: cracked freekeh. The name “cracked freekeh” doesn’t immediately bring to mind “ancient whole grain,” but maybe that’s because I’m not a poet.

Pronounced “freek-uh,” this grain is actually green wheat that goes through a roasting, sun-drying and threshing process. It is primarily eaten in the Middle East and North Africa as pilaf, salad, and hot cereal. Rich in protein and fiber, freekeh also has a low glycemic index.

When I shared with my kids that I was cooking cracked freekeh, they burst out laughing. They stopped, however, when I shared that I thought I should try my hand at writing some rap lyrics that incorporated the words “cracked freekeh.” My kids begged me not to do it, hinting at possible community-wide embarrassment. So I agreed and said I’d compose some freekeh poetry instead. Their side-long glances at each other spurred me on.

One of my favorite forms of poetry is the Japanese haiku. This type of poem is composed of three non-rhyming lines, with the first and third lines having five syllables and the second line having seven. Like this:

Chewy and tender,

Filled with fiber and protein,

Will children eat it?

This week’s recipe comes from a website called Cookie and Kate, and is easy to put together.

Although it may be an abuse of poetic license, I was glad my family enjoyed eating cracked freekeh more than they liked my poem about it.

Roasted Cauliflower, Freekeh, and Garlicky Tahini

Serves 4 to 6

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

3 to 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use

¼ cup sliced almonds

1¼ cups cracked freekeh

4 cloves garlic, minced, divided use

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon coriander

3 cups vegetable stock

⅓ cup tahini

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pinch red pepper flakes

⅓ cup water

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Garnishes: chopped fresh parsley and/or cilantro leaves, crumbled feta, raisins, sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425º. Toss cauliflower with 2 or 3 Tbsp. olive oil, season with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes until florets are golden on the edges.

Warm 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan. Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add freekeh and sauté for 2 minutes, then add half the garlic, cumin, coriander and salt, and sauté for 1 more minute. Add vegetable broth, raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally and maintain a gentle simmer until freekeh is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain off excess liquid, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper.

Combine tahini, lemon juice, remaining garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk in water to make a smooth, blended tahini sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.

To assemble, start with a bed of cooked freekeh, top with roasted cauliflower, drizzle tahini sauce over the dish, and top with garnishes. Serve immediately.

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Betty Williams