a plate, seen from above, with mushy grains on a bed of greens with color veggies on top
Faith Kramer's Freekeh Salad with Tuna (Photo/Faith Kramer)

For Tu B’Shevat this year, let your freekeh flag fly

When the holiday of Tu B’Shevat shows up on my calendar, my mind turns to fresh, natural foods from the Earth. And my taste buds are in agreement. A main-course salad is perfect for the “new year for the trees” — and ingredients such as freekeh, lemon and herbs would be perfect for such a salad.

Freekeh are roasted, green, wheat kernels with a lightly smoked taste that are popular in the Middle East. Wheat, dates (honey), pomegranates, grapes, figs, olives (oil) and barley are the Seven Species mentioned in the Torah — and eating foods made from them (such as freekeh!) is a tradition on Tu B’Shevat, which starts this year at sundown Sunday, Jan. 20 and ends the next evening.

Freekeh (sometimes spelled frikah or frikeh) is available in select supermarkets and in Middle Eastern and speciality stores. Choose whole freekeh, not cracked. And for the tuna in this recipe, use good quality, dolphin-safe canned tuna packed in water or olive oil. Also, try the salad with a drizzle of garlic sauce on top; you might want to use my recipe from earlier this year at tinyurl.com/garlic-kramer.


Freekeh Salad with Tuna

Serves 4 to 6

For the freekeh:

  • 1½ cups whole, raw freekeh
  • 2 Tbs. oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 cups chopped red onion
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • ½ tsp. chili flakes, or to taste
  • ½ tsp. ground sumac, or 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • About 4 cups of vegetable broth, divided

For the salad:

  • 10 oz. (2 cans) solid white albacore tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onion (scallion)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest

Dressing:

  • ¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp. ground sumac, or ½ tsp. grated lemon zest
  • ½ tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

To serve:

  • About 4 cups arugula or other greens
  • ½ tsp. ground sumac, optional
  • 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • ¼ chopped fresh parsley, mint or dill (or a combo)

For the freekeh: Soak freekeh in cold water for 20 minutes. Remove floating debris. Drain well and towel dry. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a large, deep sauté pan or pot over medium-high heat. Sauté red onion until softened. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Stir in salt, mint, chili flakes and sumac (or lemon zest). Sauté for a minute then add freekeh. Turn to coat in oil, adding oil if needed. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup broth. Cook uncovered. Bring to and keep at simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed. Repeat two more times, cooking until each cup is absorbed before adding the next. Bite into a grain. It should be cooked through but still be firm in the center. If necessary, repeat with a fourth cup of broth. Spread out on platter and let cool to room temperature, fluffing with fork. Note: This can be made in advance and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before continuing.

For the salad: Transfer cooled freekeh mix to a large bowl. Stir in tuna, tomatoes, green onions, parsley, mint, dill and lemon zest.

For the dressing: In a separate bowl, combine salt, cayenne, sumac (or lemon zest), mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir until combined. Taste. Adjust salt, cayenne, lemon juice and/or olive oil as needed. Note: If made in advance, refrigerate salad and dressing separately. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

To serve: Just before serving, mix dressing and toss with freekeh. Taste. Add more salt and/or cayenne if needed. Place on platter or individual serving plates atop arugula or other fresh greens. Garnish with sumac, lemon zest and chopped herbs.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.