I’ve always loved the Fancy Food Show, not just because the eating is swell, but because I enjoy seeing what’s current in the food world and what manufacturers have come up with in the last year.
Trying out something new is always an exciting prospect as far as I am concerned.
And yet, for me, two of the show favorites this year were old timers that have become staples of my kitchen: freekeh and dried dates.
While freekeh is familiar at our house, I do realize that it isn’t exactly as well-known as most other grains. If you haven’t heard of it or haven’t tried it, I heartily recommend it. Freekeh is a whole grain that fills in for well-known starches such as white rice, noodles and potatoes, but is much lower on the glycemic index than those ingredients. It also has lots of fiber and protein and is a good source of calcium and iron.
It’s a variety of wheat, so it is NOT gluten-free.
There are several brands available in supermarkets and online; I tried some from Freekehlicious, which sells both whole and cracked freekeh. They sent me home with a sample of their soon-to-come freekeh pasta. (Haven’t tried it yet.)
Freekeh is nutty and toasty tasting. I love it plain and hot with a squirt of olive oil, and also cool, for salad, like the chicken salad recipe below (that includes freekeh, mango, nuts and a citrusy vinaigrette).
Dried dates are like candy— sweet, chewy and indulgent. I frequently snack on them late in the afternoon though sometimes I cut them up into my breakfast yogurt.
I have always bought Medjool dates, but at the Fancy Food Show I tried several other varieties, including safawi, saggae and sukkary at the Sahara Date Company booth. I’m convinced. If I see these in my supermarket, I’m going to be a buyer.
Because dates are so naturally sweet, they’re a good fit with tangy, citrusy and acidic ingredients. So they work harmoniously in this chicken salad too.
Chicken Freekeh Salad with Mango, Dates and Pistachios
1 cup wholegrain freekeh
1-3/4 cups water
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
4 chopped scallions
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, preferably flat leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoon mango juice or orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the freekeh and water in a saucepan over high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, stir, cover the pan and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30-35 minutes or until the grains are tender but still somewhat firm and all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Place the cooked freekeh in a bowl. Add the chicken, dates, pistachio nuts, raisins, mango, scallions, parsley and mint. Toss ingredients gently to distribute them evenly. Combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, mango/orange juice and lemon juice and whisk vigorously. Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss the salad and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let rest for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.