Freekeh, fire-roasted green wheat, is a perfect canvas for autumn vegetables. The grain’s smoky notes are enhanced with smoked paprika (pimentón in Spain) and smoked salt. This dish is great for entertaining, as it can be served at room temperature or made a day ahead and reheated. It is also delicious made with farro or red or black quinoa. The cooking method for freekeh comes from Orie Habshoush, grandson of the founder of a spice, legume, and grain shop near the Levinsky market in Tel Aviv. If you are using whole grain freekeh, allow several hours for soaking.
Freekeh with Kale, Butternut Squash, and Smoked Salt
- 1 cup freekeh 155 g, preferably finely cracked
- 1 small butternut squash about 1¼ pounds (570 g)
- 1 small bunch tender kale such as cavolo nero, about 6 ounces (170 g), or ¼ pound (115 g) loose-leaf baby kale
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2½ cups hot water
- Smoked salt for finishing
- If using whole or cracked freekeh, soak in water to cover for at least 6 hours or up to overnight, then drain well. If using finely cracked freekeh, skip this step.
- Halve the squash and remove and discard the seeds and fibers. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash halves, then cut into cubes no larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm). You should have about 3 cups (420 g). If using a bunch of kale, strip the stems from the leaves and discard as directed on page 17, then massage the leaves to tenderize, if you like. If using baby kale, skip this step. Roughly chop the leaves.
- In a wide pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash, the smoked paprika, and a little kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is golden in places and crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, and a bit of salt to the same pot and sauté until the onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook for 2 minutes. Push the kale and onion to the side of the pot. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the freekeh and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat the grains with oil. Stir in the water, squash, and about ½ teaspoon kosher salt, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until almost all the water is absorbed and the freekeh is tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes longer.
- Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the smoked salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.