Freekeh, a whole grain that is exceptionally rich in protein and fiber, is the star of this salad with raspberries and pistachios. (Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

Freekeh, a whole grain that is exceptionally rich in protein and fiber, is the star of this salad with raspberries and pistachios. (Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

Fabulous freekeh: This ancient grain is modern must-have

Serve a summery salad featuring the Middle Eastern wheat with anything you are grilling this season.

Freekeh, an ancient Middle Eastern type of wheat, has been on my radar for quite a while as a new “it” grain, but I had not gotten around to trying it until now. I wish I hadn’t waited so long, because it is a treasure on both nutritional and culinary fronts.

It is a whole grain that is exceptionally rich in protein and fiber (it has more of both than quinoa does), and it has a lovely chewiness with a nutty, subtly smoky taste that is the result of the grain, which is harvested when it is young and green, being roasted over an open fire.

This salad showcases freekeh’s delights by pairing it with ingredients typical of its Middle Eastern roots: a generous amount of parsley and mint, a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, and a crunchy shower of pistachios. But I had a little fun with it from there, adding chopped celery for a crisp contrast to the tender grain, and fresh raspberries to provide a bright and unexpected twist and push the salad into to realm of summer.

Serve it with anything you are grilling this season. After trying it once, I’ll bet freekeh will find a regular spot in your kitchen as it has in mine.

Freekeh salad with raspberries

This salad showcases the ancient Middle Eastern whole grain wheat, freekeh, which is exceptionally rich in protein and fiber and has a lovely, chewy texture and subtly smoky taste. Handfuls of fresh herbs, celery for crisp contrast, a sprinkling of pistachios and a bright burst of fresh raspberries make it the ideal side for just about any protein you might be grilling.

1 cup uncooked freekeh

3-5 cups water, for the freekeh

½ cup shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped mint leaves

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced

3 ounces raspberries, each berry cut in half (¾ cup)

Cook the freekeh according to the package directions (your package might suggest using 5 cups of water; we thought 3 cups were sufficient). Drain and cool completely.

If your pistachios aren’t already roasted, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Cool completely, then coarsely chop and place in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a liquid measuring cup, to form an emulsified dressing.

Add the freekeh, parsley, mint, celery, scallion and the dressing to the bowl with the pistachios; toss to coat evenly, then add the raspberries and toss gently to incorporate just before serving. (If they are quite ripe and soft, they may break down a bit; that’s OK.)

Makes 6 servings (or a generous 6 cups). Nutrition per serving: 220 calories, 7 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, 115 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar.

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