Ancient grain freekeh featured at Beatrix

If you like eating grains, you may have heard of quinoa, millet or barley, but add freekeh to that list, as this ancient grain loaded with fiber slowly weaves its way onto local menus, and River North's Beatrix is really experimenting with it.
October 29, 2013 8:48:45 AM PDT
It's not as sexy as quinoa, and not gluten-free like amaranth, teff or millet, but freekeh does contain lots of fiber - a lot more than brown rice - and it's used with frequency on the menu at Beatrix, a busy corner restaurant next to the new Aloft Hotel in River North.

"Freekeh is an ancient grain, it's really unique in the way it's cooked - it's sun-dried - then they actually burn it and they peel or rub the husk off of it," said Marc Jacobs, partner at Beatrix.

Jacobs says one of the restaurant's most popular salads is a three-grain affair - including quinoa, millet and the freekeh - then topped with a healthy mound of peppery arugula, embedded with blueberries and shaved parmesan.

Other salads might take the form of micro greens, embedded with bits of dried cranberry and walnuts.

As an occasional special, they might also make tiny cakes with the freekeh, topping them off with seasonal vegetables and a vibrant herb oil. Jacobs says the grain is pretty neutral, but it will pick up whatever flavors you pair with it.

"In the cooking process, it definitely picks up a nutty flavor to it, a toasty-nutty flavor, but absolutely, it's what you do with it," said Jacobs.

Just because a food is high in fiber doesn't necessarily mean it has great flavor, but in freekeh's case, it has four times the amount of fiber as brown rice, and guess what: it's delicious.

If you want to try cooking with the grain at home, you can typically find freekeh at whole foods.

519 N. Clark St.