Creating vegan entrees that are so good that your omnivore family and guests are happy is no easy feat. As a former vegetarian and vegan, for over 2 decades, including doing catering, I found that the best dishes were based on real whole foods. I love to find a new grain to learn about and experiment with.
Fear not the freekah. It’s an easy to use, readily available grain. Not the adventurous sort? You can substitute most familiar hearty grains- barley, whole buckwheat or even brown rice- if you prefer. Try this recipe stuffed in an onion instead of a pepper or add some ground turkey or try a pungent salty feta tossed in—it’s an easy recipe to play with. The spices are influenced by Egyptian dukkah, with a pine nuts twist.
Freekeh, an ancient Egyptian grain, is a powerhouse of flavor and nutrition. Stuffing it, Sephardic style, into fresh seasonal vegetables, is a great way to showcase it. It’s a great vegan entree for your Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot celebration.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 6 ServingsServings
- 1 cup freekeh (See Kitchen Tips)
- 3 1/2 cups roasted vegetable stock, divided
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons nigella seeds (See Kitchen Tips)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and small dice
- 5 1/2 ounces white mushrooms, stems removed and sliced, about 6 large mushrooms
- 1 stalk celery, small dice, about 3 ounce
- 2 carrots, peeled and small dice, about 4 ounces
- 2 parsnips, peeled and small dice, about 3-½ ounces
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced, any green center removed
- 1/2 cup full bodied red wine
- 1/2 cup dark or sultana raisins or dried currants
- 11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (See Kitchen Tips)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
- 6 large red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers, tops sliced off, stems intact, seeds and ribs removed
- 2 cups San Marzano tomato puree or chopped tomatoes with the juice
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 375°
1) Cook the freekeh according to the package instructions, about 45–50 minutes, using 1-1/2 cups of stock in lieu of the water; check the freekeh halfway through cooking, add additional stock if necessary. Set aside.
2) Spray a 4-quart casserole dish with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.
3) Heat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat, add the coriander, cumin, and nigella seeds and toast, stirring, for 30 to 45 seconds, or until very fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder or immaculately clean coffee grinder and grind the toasted seeds finely. Set aside. Return the pan to the heat, add the pine nuts and toast, stirring until they become light golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small container and set aside.
4) Place the same pan back over high heat and add the olive oil, heating until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent.
5) Add the mushrooms, salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Add the celery, carrots, and parsnips, and continue to cook until soft, about 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze with the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the raisins, thyme, ground spices, the sumac, pine nuts, toasted sesame seeds and stir. Add the cooked freekeh and stir until well combined. Add ¼ cup vegetable stock if mixture seems too dry. Set aside to cool slightly.
6) Add the tomato puree to the bottom of the casserole dish. Stuff the peppers with the freekeh mixture, gently pressing the mixture into the pepper until filled to the top. Flatten out the mixture with the back of a spoon. Do not overfill. Place the stuffed peppers into the prepared casserole dish, leaning them against each other as necessary so they stand up. Place the tops back on the stuffed peppers.You can use foil balled up to fill any areas to help them stand. Cover the casserole with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover the casserole dish, cooking and add the remaining vegetable stock bake for another 30 to 40 hour, or until the peppers’ walls are fully cooked and very soft.
The stuffed peppers can be served immediately, with Basic Tahini Sauce, Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce, or Yogurt Tahini Sauce or fried eggs. They can be made up to one day in advance and reheated.
1. Freekeh is an ancient Middle Eastern grain that has been rediscovered in recent years. It is green wheat that has been sun-dried, cracked, and roasted. It is found mostly in Egyptian cuisine and has a nutty taste. It is packed with nutrients and fiber, as well, and can be found at many health food stores and well-stocked groceries.
2. Nigella seeds, also known as black caraway seeds, come from the Nigella sativa plant, which grows in North Africa and South Asia. Its pungent, peppery flavor and oniony aroma make it a favorite of Indian cooks. They are also believed to have medicinal properties in some cultures.
3. Sumac is a plant with red berries that have a distinctively tart flavor. Sumac is favored in Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Persian and North African cuisines. It is available as a crushed, dried spice, sometimes labeled as somagh.