I love soup, I love using whole grains and legumes, and I especially love foods that have a smoky taste to them. This recipe combines several elements to build a (vegetarian) smoky taste -- the freekah itself (more about that later), fire-roasted canned tomatoes and smoked paprika. (I give alternatives if necessary).
Freekah is an ancient way of processing green wheat. It is roasted while still in its chaff (straw) which is what gives it a smoky taste which can vary very mild to somewhat stronger. It is used throughout the Middle East, the Arab world and North Africa. Find it boxed in some supermarkets or in bags or bulk in Middle Eastern and other speciality stores.
This recipe calls for the whole kernel, not cracked. Cracked freekah is broken into pieces ranging from very fine to large. If you can only find the cracked, use the largest variety you can find in place of the whole but note that timing and other variables may change.
A special shout out to Jill Levine, whose love of freekah inspired this recipe.
Smoky Tomato Freekah Soup
1/2 cup whole, raw freekah
1/2 cup red lentils
2 Tbs. olive oil plus more as needed
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked or regular paprika plus additional for garnish if desired
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
About 5-6 cups vegetarian broth or stock, divided (plus additional if needed)
28 oz. can fire-roasted or regular diced tomatoes with liquid
2 Tbs. tomato paste plus more if needed
Sugar and or lemon juice as needed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, parsley or mint, divided
1/4 cup plain yogurt (use non-dairy to keep vegan)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
Rinse and soak freekah in cold water. Pick out any floating or other debris. Drain. Pick over lentils, rinse in cold water and drain and towel dry.
Heat 2 Tbs. oil over medium heat in large pot. Sauté onions until soft and beginning to color. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Add cumin, paprika and salt. Sauté 1 minute then add drained and dried freekah, turning until coated in oil (add more oil if needed). Sauté for 2 minutes then add broth. Bring to boil, then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lentils. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with liquid, 1 cup broth and 2 Tbs. tomato paste. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils and freekah are cooked through but not mushy (about 30 minutes but timing may vary greatly). Add stock as needed if soup is too thick. Add more tomato paste by tsp. as needed if it is too liquid and simmer a few minutes more. Taste and add salt if needed. If the soup is too sweet, add lemon juice by tsp. If it is too tart, add sugar by the 1/4 tsp. Stir in half the cilantro. Top servings with dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro, onions and paprika.