Get Your Freekeh On

An ancient grain gets a delicious update

There's no better time than the doldrums of growing season to focus on your pantry. And an ancient grain called freekeh is offering some much-needed variety to New York menus during winter's ingredient slump.

This green wheat–once a staple throughout the Middle East–is roasted during production, which gives it a distinct, smoky flavor that has endeared it to cooks as a hearty alternative to rice and couscous.

Nathan Foot, the chef at Northern Spy Food Co., turns the grain into risotto, where its nutty quality makes it an excellent counterpart to the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses in the dish (click here to download the recipe).

Freekeh also makes an unlikely appearance among the Austrian fare at Edi & the Wolf. This newly opened restaurant pairs the grain with mustard greens, pumpkin seeds, julienned carrots, goat cheese and celery for a simple but satisfying salad.

And if you're seeking freekeh in its more traditional form, you can find it at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge, where it shows up with almonds and spices as a side dish.