Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Broccoli of the Season in an Impromptu Salad with Chickpeas & Arugula

As I made my way out of the market on Saturday morning my eyes fell on a small display of broccoli at the final stall. I was so surprised to see it (no one else had it) that I exclaimed out loud "You have broccoli!". The grower responded that they did indeed—that it was in fact their first harvesting for the year. Of course I bought a box...and last night it made its way into a simple and satisfying bean salad, brimming with other staples of the early Spring market: arugula, radishes and spring onions.

One of the reasons I was so pleased to see the broccoli at the market is that it appeared to be a variety of sprouting (as opposed to heading) broccoli. Sprouting broccoli doesn't produce large, tight heads. Rather it produces heads that are smaller—with thinner, tender stems that make up loose branches of florets. I don't think I have ever seen this kind in the store...but it is often the kind I buy at the farmers' market. Maybe it's easier to grow? Or longer producing? Doesn't hold up well for transport? Whatever the reasons, I'm glad I can get it at the farmers' market. Sprouting broccoli is beautiful. I also find it to be much more tender and flavorful than the heading varieties. (But I admit that those too are more flavorful when purchased at the farmers' market instead of the grocery store). If you don't have access to sprouting broccoli, I would recommend making the salad I'm posting today with broccolini rather than a heading variety of broccoli.

The broccoli salad we had for dinner truly was "impromptu" in the sense that I made it with things I already had on hand. If I had had other ingredients in my pantry...or it were later in the season...it would have looked slightly different. The basic idea is a salad of broccoli and dried (or canned) beans...from that point, lots of possibilities present themselves. Instead of spring onions, some thinly sliced (and rinsed) red onions would be nice. Chickpeas can be replaced with a favorite white bean...or perhaps some edamame. Baby spinach would make a fine substitute for arugula (although I would miss the edge that it gives). I particularly loved the color and heat of the radishes...but shaved fennel might be good too. The final garnish of salty Pecorino rounds out this salad nicely...but other salty cheeses would work well...maybe some thin slabs of Ricotta Salata, or a few small cubes of Feta (folded into the salad itself). If you don't have any salty cheeses on hand, you might try smashing up an anchovy or two and adding that to the salad along with the spring onion.

The vinaigrette I made is adapted from a recipe for a similar salad from the New York Times. It is quite mild. When I tasted the final salad, I wanted a bit more tang, so I just added more lemon juice to the salad itself. You could make the vinaigrette stronger by increasing the vinegar or lemon (or mustard)...or reducing the olive oil. A vinaigrette should always be done to taste any way...and you may like it just the way it is.

We enjoyed this as a vegetarian entrée, garnished with a halved hard cooked egg. Served this way, it was substantial and filling...more than enough to serve two people with moderate appetites. It would be even more substantial...and would easily serve three...if some canned, flaked tuna were folded in. Without the egg, it would make a filling and delicious side dish...particularly good topped with grilled fresh tuna or swordfish.

Late Spring Salad of Broccoli, Chickpeas & Arugula

1 T. red wine vinegar
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 T. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
Salt & Pepper
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. Extra Virgin Olive oil

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 small spring onion (including a few inches of the green), trimmed, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced (a generous 2 T. minced onion)
pinch Cayenne pepper
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/3 lb. trimmed sprouting broccoli
3 small radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
2 handfuls Arugula, large stems trimmed away (about 1 1/2 oz. trimmed weight)
lemon juice, to taste
Thinly shaved Pecorino
2 or 3 hard cooked eggs, halved (optional)

Make the vinaigrette: Place the vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and salt & pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside. (See notes.)

Place the chickpeas, onion, cayenne and olives in a large bowl. Season with salt. Drizzle with a few spoonfuls of the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add just enough vinaigrette to coat the beans—they shouldn't be swimming in vinaigrette. Set aside and let marinate a bit (10 to 15 minutes or so) while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cut the broccoli into medium-sized florets. If the natural florets of the broccoli are large (wide), you may need to halve or quarter them. Blanch the broccoli in rapidly boiling salted water. When just tender (the amount of time this will take will depend on the broccoli you are using...mine took about 3 to 4 minutes), drain and shock under cold running water. Shake well (the florets like to hang onto lots of water...which will dilute the vinaigrette) and spread on kitchen towels to dry. (Alternatively, instead of refreshing the broccoli in cold water, you may simply spread the blanched broccoli on kitchen towels, allowing it to steam dry as it cools.)

When ready to serve the salad, add the broccoli, radishes and arugula to the bowl (adding more vinaigrette as necessary) and toss to combine. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Divide the salad among serving plates. Thinly shave some Pecorino over all. Serve, garnished with halved hard cooked eggs, if desired. Serves 2 as a vegetarian entrée, 3 as an accompaniment to meat or fish.

• If using broccolini instead of broccoli, prepare it by trimming off the florets and then cutting the stems 1/4-inch thick on a long bias.
• The vinaigrette for this salad is quite mild. If you like a sharper vinaigrette, only use 1/4 cup of olive oil...or increase the lemon juice to 1 1/2 T. The recipe makes more than enough vinaigrette for this salad.
• This recipe is easily doubled. If you double the salad, you should only need to make 1 1/2 times the vinaigrette.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Simple Spring Lunch...Asparagus with a Fried Egg

It has been a busy spring....busy enough that I feel like I have been neglecting my blog a bit. It occurred to me today that I should write a quick post so that no one will think I've decided to throw in the towel. The simple, seasonal and delicious lunch I made for myself today seemed like a good candidate for such a post.

Inspired by a lunch my good friend Christy made for me recently (when we were trying to squeeze in a bit of catch up time), the basic idea is to prepare a big platter of seasonal vegetables and top it with a fried egg. If you are spending a day working from home (as I was today), this is a perfect kind of lunch to make for yourself.  (It would also make a nice light dinner.)

You can make the vegetable component as complex or as simple as you like....using whatever vegetables and pantry items you have on hand.  When Christy cooked for me she served the egg over a mound of creamy polenta topped wilted spinach. I served mine today over a big plate of blanched asparagus, toasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. A slice of toasted semolina bread added substance to my meal as well as something nice to sop up every bit of the soft yolk.

I guess I can't imagine that there is someone reading this post who has never made a fried egg, but if there is, a fried egg is truly easy to prepare.  It should be in everyone's repertoire—any good basic cookbook will give detailed instructions. Start by warming some fat in a non-stick sauté pan (use enough fat to generously coat the bottom of the pan). My fat of choice for eggs is butter...but olive oil or bacon fat are both good options too. If you want a soft tender white, use medium-low heat. If it isn't a fried egg to you without crispy edges, turn the heat up so that the egg will sizzle when it hits the pan. For sunny-side up eggs, cover the pan, cooking until the white is just set and the yolk is beginning to set around the edges (this will only take two or three minutes). If you want the top of your sunny side up egg to be a bit more cooked, baste it a couple of times as it cooks by spooning some of the hot fat in the pan over the top of the yolk. For an "over-easy" egg, as soon as the white is just set, gently flip the egg over and continue to cook for another 30 seconds (be careful—the yolk is easy to over-cook....it will still taste good, but you'll lose your egg yolk "sauce" for your vegetables).

I couldn't get over how much I enjoyed my lunch with Christy.  I eat eggs all the time.  I love them.  But most of the time I poach them...or cook them in the shell...or scramble them...or turn them into a frittata, Spanish tortilla or a quiche. Unless I'm making a fried egg sandwich, I don't often think of making a fried egg. Thanks to my friend, fried eggs will become a regular part of my lunchtime rotation.

Asparagus with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and a Fried Egg

For each person you will need:
1 oz. (1/4 c.) walnuts
1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends snapped off and discarded (you should have about 4 oz. trimmed weight)
1 oz. goat cheese
a few fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley...whatever you have in your garden)—optional
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
2 to 3 t. unsalted butter
1 egg

Put the walnuts in a small pan (a metal pie tin works well for a small amount of nuts) and place the pan in a 350° oven. Toast until fragrant and lightly colored—5 or 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If the walnuts are large, break them into smaller pieces.

Bring a saucepan of well salted water to the boil. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch lengths on the diagonal. Add the asparagus to the pan and boil until just tender—2 or 3 minutes. Drain and spread on paper towels. Set the empty pan aside to use for tossing the asparagus with the nuts and herbs.

Fry the egg to your liking. While the egg is frying, toast some bread and mince the herbs if you are using any. Return the asparagus to the empty saucepan and add the walnuts and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange on a plate and crumble the goat cheese over all. Place the egg on top and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with buttered toast.

Serves 1

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Key Lime Tart

Key Lime Pie.... Creamy.... Cool.... Tart.... Refreshing.... A universally appealing dessert for the warm days of Spring and Summer.... And my mother's request for dessert this past Mother's Day.

While delicious, it was frankly not an obvious choice for a blog post. There must be hundreds of blog posts written on Key Lime Pie. But as I looked through post after post, I saw that all of the fillings were variations on the classic filling made with sweetened condensed milk. And while there is nothing wrong with that particular filling...it is not the one that I make. Instead, I make mine with a delicious key lime curd.

The recipe I use is not my own. I found it several years ago in Emily Luchetti's dessert cookbook Four Star Desserts. It is nearly identical to my recipe for lemon curd—which is probably why I noticed it in the first place. It is fast, easy and truly delicious. I have only changed her recipe in one respect: I bake the curd filled tart briefly before chilling it. This helps give the filling a firmer set—guaranteeing beautiful clean slices.

Most of the time when I make this tart, I go to the trouble of squeezing fresh key limes. This is admittedly a bit of a pain, but I have always assumed that it was worth it (isn't fresh always better?). But since this popular pie (or tart) is frequently made with bottled juice, I have often wondered if the fresh lime juice was really that much better.

On Mother's day I had a perfect opportunity to make a side-by-side comparison. My family is large, so in order to feed them all, I needed to make two tarts. I made one with freshly squeezed juice and one with bottled.

The two tarts cooling...  you can't tell the difference by looking....

I freely admit that the one made with bottled juice was very good. But I really did like the one made with fresh juice better. It was more tart (important, since limes are supposed to be tart), but more importantly it was more aromatic...I don't know any other way to describe it. The bottled juice tart tasted like a slightly faded copy in comparison—acceptable in a pinch...but inferior none-the-less.

If you have never tasted a key lime pie (or tart) made with fresh key limes, you should try it at least once.  And if the only filling you have ever had is the one made with sweetened condensed milk, you should definitely give this one—made with fresh key lime curd—a try.

Key Lime Tart

1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. lime zest
3/4 c. strained key lime juice (this will take about 1 lb. of limes)
4 eggs
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 9-inch pre-baked graham cracker crust (see below)

1 1/2 c. whipping cream
3 T. sugar
3/4 t. vanilla

Combine the sugar, zest and key lime juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs until homogenous. When the syrup boils, whisk it into the eggs in a thin stream. Return this mixture to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is visibly thickened—this will only take about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, piece by piece.

When the butter is fully incorporated, strain the curd into the graham cracker crust. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350° oven until set (it will still be a bit wobbly, but it won't be liquid-y)—15 to 20 minutes. Let the tart cool before transferring to the refrigerator to chill until cold.

Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form. Swirl over the tart.

Chill for an hour or so. Sprinkle some of the reserved crumbs over . Cut into wedges and serve. Serves 8 to 10.

(Recipe adapted from Emily Luchetti's Four Start Desserts)

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/4 c. (120 g) graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 oz. (4 T.) unsalted butter, melted

Combine dry ingredients. Add the melted butter, stirring until the mixture is homogenous. Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the crumbs. Press the remaining crumbs into a greased, removable-bottom 9-inch tart pan, covering the sides and the bottom evenly. Bake in a pre-heated 350° oven until beginning to brown—10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Rhubarb Financier

In late March Ottolenghi posted a few items on their Facebook page from their Notting Hill location's new Spring menu. Everything looked delicious...and seemed to shout "Spring!"...but it was the Rhubarb Financiers that particularly caught my eye. Here in Kansas City we were still in the throes of the winter that wouldn't let go, but as I looked at the images of those beautiful Springtime cakes, I remembered that I had just seen the first of the rhubarb at my local grocery store (coming of course from someplace where it was actually spring).  The next time I went to the store I went straight for that rhubarb.  I could have made any number of things...I love rhubarb.  But at that point, I just had to have a rhubarb financier.

Traditionally, a financier (pronounced fee-nahn-see-ay) doesn't include any fruit. It is a simple, flat little rectangular cake (classically about 2- by 4-inches) made with ground almonds, flour, egg whites, browned butter and powdered sugar. They are standard French pâtisserie fare. Their color and shape is said to be the source of their name—when made without the addition of any fruit, they look like little gold bars or ingots. There are other explanations, but to me this one seems the most plausible. No matter what the source of their name, they are delicious—one of my all-time favorites. Buttery....nutty.... tender and cake-y on the inside.....crusty and chewy on the outside..... If you love browned butter and almonds, these cakes are for you.

More and more you will find financiers that include a seasonal fruit of some kind. This is in fact the way I see them most often. Bon Appetit has published a blackberry version. The blogs Tartelette and Cannelle et Vanille have both posted several interesting fruit variations. And these are just the bare tip of the iceberg as a quick internet search will bear out. Besides fruit variations you will also find that the kind of nut flour used is frequently varied.

Similarly, financiers are no longer just made in the traditional flat rectangular pan—other shapes and sizes are common. The deeper the pan, the greater the proportion of tender cake and the greater their capacity to accommodate some fruit. The shallower the pan, the greater the proportion of the prized crusty-chewy exterior.

I don't own traditional financier molds, so my choice of pans was limited to small ramekins, muffin pans and tartlet pans—all of which would have worked just fine. But instead of making little individual financiers, I decided to make one large financier in a rectangular tart pan.

Suzanne Goin in her book Sunday Suppers at Lucques has a couple of recipes that are done as large cakes. And Martha Stewart published one in a rectangular tart pan in March of this year. I particularly like this look. I also like the fact that the end result is a cake with more tender interior and less crusty exterior.

After settling on a style of pan, the only hurdle left was finding a way to incorporate the rhubarb. As I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts, adding rhubarb to a cake can be a bit problematic since it releases so much water during the cooking process. Because this cake is so thin, it would actually have worked pretty well to simply scatter the raw rhubarb over the surface of the cake before baking (just as I did for a rhubarb & cornmeal cake a few years ago). But since the rhubarb in the photos from Ottolenghi had obviously been given some kind of pre-baking treatment—and those photos were the source of my inspiration—that's the direction I took. The trick is to get the rhubarb to release its liquid before it goes on/into the cake without cooking it too much. The best way to do this is to allow the cut rhubarb to macerate in a bit of sugar overnight.

Since the batter for a financier has to rest overnight, this method works well for this particular cake. The next day, the resulting liquid is drained off of the rhubarb and then reduced to a syrup. I used a similar method in a streusel coffee cake a couple of years back.

All in all, I was very pleased with my rhubarb financier. It is tender, sweet, buttery, fragrant with almonds and accented nicely by the chunks of tart rhubarb. It is also very pretty—perfect for a spring tea, a light dessert...or a "just because" kind of snack.

Rhubarb Financier
(Rhubarb-Topped Browned Butter Cake)

150 g. (10 T. plus 2 t.) unsalted butter
60 g. (1/2 cup) slivered blanched almonds
60 g. (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
120 g. (a generous 1 cup) powdered sugar
4 egg whites (120 grams)—beaten until foamy

125 g. (trimmed weight) rhubarb, sliced cross-wise in 1/2-inch pieces (a generous 1 cup sliced rhubarb)
25 g. (2 T.) sugar

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven until light golden brown—about 5 minutes. Cool and using a nut grinder, grind the nuts to a flour. (You may use 60 grams of purchased almond flour instead. If using almond flour, spread it on a baking sheet and toast as you would the slivered almonds.)

Meanwhile, place the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. As the butter begins to sputter and pop, whisk occasionally. The butter solids will begin to turn brown. When the solids are a golden brown and the butter has a pleasantly nutty aroma, scrape the butter (making sure to get all the browned bits) to another container to stop the cooking process (you should have 120 g. browned butter).  For a detailed description of browning butter, visit my Butter Pecan Ice Cream post.

Place the ground almonds, all-purpose flour, salt & sugar in a medium sized bowl. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the egg whites. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the warm browned butter to incorporate. Continue to whisk until the batter is smooth. Refrigerate the batter overnight. (This will allow any developed gluten to relax and will give the butter time to firm up.)

To prepare the rhubarb: In a small bowl, toss the rhubarb together with the sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, give the rhubarb a quick fold to help dissolve any remaining sugar hanging out at the bottom of the bowl. Strain the rhubarb liquid into a sauté pan large enough to hold the rhubarb in a single layer.  Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat; add the rhubarb to the pan and return to the boil.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.  Strain the cooled rhubarb out and place in a small bowl.   Return the liquid to the pan and set the pan over high heat.  Reduce the liquid to a syrup.  Scrape the syrup (there shouldn't be more than a tablespoon) over the rhubarb and toss to combine.  Chill until ready to use.  (See notes.)

To bake the financier: Butter and flour a rectangular (roughly 4 1/2- x 13 1/2-inches) removable bottom tart tin. (If you don't have a rectangular tin, an 8-inch round tart pan—or even a shallow cake pan—will work too.) Spread the batter in the pan and arrange the rhubarb chunks on top of the batter (leaving any excess syrup behind in the bowl)—it is not necessary (or desirable) to press the fruit into the batter.

Transfer the pan to a 375° oven and bake until the cake is golden brown, puffed in the center and a toothpick inserted in the cake (not the fruit) comes out clean—about 25 minutes. If there was any syrup remaining from the rhubarb, brush this over the warm cake. When the cake is cool enough to handle (but still warm) remove the outer rim of the pan. Set the cake on a wire rack and cool completely.

To serve the financier, dredge with powdered sugar and slice cross-wise into 6 portions.

  • Because financiers use such a large quantity of egg whites, a good time to make them is after you have made something that uses a lot of yolks (ice cream, pot de crème, cream pie, etc.).
  • For the rhubarb, you can use the exact same method that I did for the rhubarb streusel coffee cake if you prefer.  The method described here may seem a bit more convoluted...but I think it works better for the smaller amount of rhubarb required for this recipe.  When executed properly, both methods produce the same thing.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Learning about a "New" Grain: Freekeh Pilaf with Swiss Chard, Spring Onions & Goat Cheese

Last summer a woman who takes my classes at The Merc in Lawrence left a note on my Facebook page asking if I had ever cooked with freekeh. At the time I had not. I was peripherally aware of it because I had seen it mentioned in a couple of favorite cookbooks—but had never made the leap to seeking it out and cooking with it. Soon after our Facebook conversation, I picked up a bag of Freekeh at the Merc—fully intending to cook some right away. As often happens, it fell off of my radar. Last week (almost a year later!) while looking for something a bit different to do with some Swiss Chard I purchased at the Farmers' market, I remembered my bag of freekeh.

For those who are wondering what in the world I am talking about, freekeh is wheat—or more specifically, freekeh is a method for processing wheat (a process that can be applied to other grains as well.....most notably, barley). To produce Freekeh, the wheat is harvested while it is still a bit green. It is then laid out to dry and then finally, it is roasted or charred. The resulting wheat kernels have a faintly smoky aroma and taste. It is my suspicion that the level of smokiness will vary from processor to processor. As a bonus, since it is made with an unripe grain, freekeh is very nutritious—apparently on a par with quinoa.

Freekeh is truly an ancient grain—the "parched corn" mentioned in the Old Testament is generally thought to be freekeh. Most sources agree that the freekeh process was discovered by accident about four thousand years ago in the Middle East. In an attempt to save their wheat crop from an impending enemy attack, a group of villagers harvested the unripe grain and stacked it inside their village walls. Sources disagree on whether the wheat combusted on its own or was actually set on fire by the enemy. When the fire was finally out, it was discovered that the wheat itself had not burned—possibly due to the moisture inherent in the still green kernels—only the husks were charred. The husks were easily removed by rubbing the grains together. The crop had been saved after all. Freekeh—meaning "rubbed" or "to rub"—was born.

notice the faint green cast to the grain....

Freekeh is easy to cook and may be prepared as you would prepare any whole grain. It may be simply boiled and drained (and rinsed if destined for a salad). Or it may be prepared according to the standard pilaf method. It comes in a whole and a cracked form—the whole taking slightly longer (maybe 10 to 15 minutes longer) to cook. Some sources recommend soaking freekeh in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking. I'm guessing the brief soak gives the cooked grains a more uniform texture—but I really don't know. I simply rinsed mine and drained it well before I cooked it (just as I would quinoa, farro or bulgur). The finished texture was tender and pleasantly chewy.

Because bulgur is commonly recommended as a substitute for freekeh (it is apparently only recently that freekeh has become widely available in this country), I decided for my first foray into the world of freekeh that I would prepare a dish based on a favorite bulgur preparation—a pilaf with Swiss Chard, dried fruit and nuts. The results were delicious. The freekeh does indeed have a smokiness to it—but it is fairly subtle. The flavor is difficult to describe. Bulgur has a prominent sweetness to it that freekeh lacks. Yotam Ottolenghi uses the word "earthy" to describe it. I found one source that described freekeh as having a tangy quality and I think this is an accurate description. I particularly liked the sweetness of the currants and pine nuts against the backdrop of the freekeh.

If you choose to cook your freekeh according to the pilaf method you will find recipes with liquid to grain ratios ranging from 3:1 to 1 1/4:1. This latter very low ratio I found in Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty. It was the only place I found it, but it was the one I settled on. This is the ratio I always use when I cook bulgur. Furthermore, I think the chefs at Ottolenghi do amazing things with grains...their books and other published recipes (magazines...on line...) are the first place I check when I'm experimenting with grains and I am never disappointed. At this ratio, the grain was still nice and moist, but not swimming in excess liquid that had to be drained away.

I'm so pleased that someone asked me about freekeh (Thanks Lisa!)....I'm not sure I would have tried it otherwise. And I'm so glad I did. It has earned a permanent place in the selection of grains in my pantry and I'm looking forward to experimenting further with it in the months to come.

Freekeh Pilaf with Swiss Chard,
Spring Onions & Goat Cheese

1 small to medium bunch Swiss Chard, stems removed and the leaves cut cross-wise into 1-inch wide ribbons
1 T. olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, minced
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 to 2 T. olive oil
2 medium spring onions, trimmed, well-rinsed and thinly sliced (white plus a few inches of the green)
kosher salt
1/2 c. cracked freekeh, rinsed and drained
a scant 2/3 c. chicken stock
2 heaping T. dried currants
2 1/2 to 3 T. toasted pine nuts
2 to 3 T. finely chiffonade mint (or minced flat leaf parsley)
1/2 T. lemon juice (or to taste)
2 oz. soft goat cheese

Wash the chard in several changes of water in order to remove all dirt and grit. Set aside to drain (it is not necessary to spin dry unless you will be storing it after washing it). Place the olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a sauté pan set over moderate heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle and is fragrant, add the chard a handful at a time, turning to coat each handful in the oil as you do. After all of the chard has been added to the pan, reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is just tender (not mushy). If the chard is not young and tender, it may be necessary to reduce the heat and cover the pan to help the chard cook. It should take 10 to 20 minutes to cook. Set aside.

Warm one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid over moderate heat. Add the onions along with a pinch of salt and sweat until tender and translucent. Increase the heat to medium high and add the drained freekeh along with a generous pinch of salt. Continue to cook for a minute until the grains are coated in the oil and sizzling in the hot oil. Add the stock

and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered until the freekeh is tender—20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and scatter the currants over the surface of the freekeh.

Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

If the chard has become cold, warm briefly. Add the chard to the rested freekeh along with the mint and pine nuts. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Divide the freekeh among two plates. Crumble some goat cheese over each along with a few more pine nuts and more mint.

• The quantities in this recipe made a satisfying entrée for two light appetites. It would also make a delicious side dish (for chicken or fish) for three or four.
• The recipe may be multiplied without difficulty—just use 1 1/4 c. of stock (or water) for every cup of freekeh.
• This pilaf is excellent hot—but it is also delicious at room temperature.  It would be wonderful to take to work or school for lunch.

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