That’s when Fanelli, 60, really began digging. She contacted distributors of the ancient grain in the Middle East and Australia. The Australian product impressed her because it was so clean. The other freekehs, harvested by hand and found at markets throughout Eastern countries, often contained stones and twigs. Although the Australian grain is picked by hand, the toasting process is done with specialized equipment, creating a more refined product.
Initially, she took the Australian freekeh to her local health food store hoping to convince them to sell it. “It just snowballed from there,” says Fanelli, a retired animator for ABC News. “We put up a website, and within three days Whole Foods called me.”
Thus, the Freekehlicious (freekehlicious.com) brand was born. It is distributed nationwide.
The discovery of freekeh—the name is said to mean ‘to rub’ in Aramaic—dates to 2300 B.C., according to Fanelli. An Eastern Mediterranean city was on the verge of being attacked. Desperate residents picked the immature green heads of their wheat and stashed them away. After the siege, much of the stores were scorched, but “they started rubbing and shaking the wheat because that was all they had, and they found that it sustained them,” Fanelli says.
Unlike its humble origins, the Freekehlicious product, marketed in Norwood and distributed from a climate-controlled warehouse along the New Jersey Turnpike, is subject to science. “They pick it a very specific stage when the kernel is young and green and creamy, and they toast it. All the nutrients that would have gone into the flowering of the wheat are transferred to you.”
With a nutty taste and a chewy texture, “people don’t know what it is,” she says, “but the minute they taste it, they love it.”
The 100 percent natural grain has no preservatives, pesticides or additives. It is kosher and contains no GMOs. Cooked in liquid, much like other grains and starches, it takes on the flavor of juices and broths, making it versatile enough to eat at any time of day.
Fanelli calls Freekah mixed with apples, applesauce, apple juice, raisins, dried cranberries, nuts and cinnamon “the ultimate breakfast.”
Mixed with chopped tomatoes, celery, cucumber, feta and balsamic vinegar, it makes a bruschetta type topping. It can be mixed into risottos, stuffings, fish cakes and eggs to boost dinner.
The Ultimate Breakfast
1 cup cooked wholegrain freekeh
1 chopped apple
2 T. dried cranberries
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup apple juice
2 T. raisins (optional)
¼ cup of your favorite nuts – walnut, pecan, almond – chopped
Cinnamon to taste
In saucepan cook apples in applesauce and apple juice on low heat.
Prepare mixture to your personal taste & texture. Add cinnamon & dried cranberries. Cook for 5 minutes. Add nuts and simmer for 2 more minutes.
Pour onto cooked freekeh. Top with yogurt, honey and your favorite fruit.
Tomato Freekeh Salad
1 cup whole grain freekeh (yields 3 cups cooked)
3 medium plum tomatoes chopped
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup diced celery
1 cup cubed cucumber
3 lemons (squeezed)
2 T. olive oil
1 cup cubed feta cheese
Add tomatoes, celery, and cucumber to cooked freekeh.
Mix together lemon juice and olive oil and add to salad.
Add cheese right before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.