A Buddha bowl inspired by Jaj Mahshi Bil Freekeh (Freekeh Stuffed Chicken), this dish will keep you full and happy, much like the Buddha belly that inspired the name. This bowl can be served solo, or if you’re planning a house party, consider a “bowl bar” where friends and family can create bowls with their favorite fixings. However served, prepping the bowl components in advance can make this a meal to last to your next work day, which can be helpful if you’re aiming to create new, healthy eating habits (it’s still the “new” year, right?) Freekeh really is no ordinary grain. Low in fat, low on the glycemic index making it excellent for battling diabetes, a natural prebiotic, more fiber than brown rice and six grams of protein per quarter cup – this ancient grain makes those balanced cooking goals just a tad more reachable.
Freekeh, 1 cup
Broth (vegetable or chicken) or Water, 1 cup
Skinless Chicken, 2 cutlets or 1 breast
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3 to 4 Tablespoons
Garlic, 1-2 cloves
Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
Black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon
Paprika, 1/4 teaspoon
Baby “pearl” onions, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
Begin by sifting the freekeh to remove any small rock debris. These freekeh boxes have rarely turned up any, but it never hurts to double check especially if this is your first time cooking with freekeh. Spread the grains onto a large plate or baking sheet to sift with ease.
Next, pour into a bowl to soak the freekeh in tepid water for 20 minutes (Optional). In later steps, this recipe calls for a 1:1 water to freekeh ratio because it’s been pre-soaked. Transfer soaked freekeh into a strainer to remove as much moisture as possible.
In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until golden. Add freekeh, and continue to sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add water (or broth), bringing the liquid to a boil. Reduce to low heat, covering with lid to cook 15 to 20 minutes. Freekeh is cooked when all water has absorbed, making the grain tender and easy to fluff with a fork.
Mince or press garlic. Combine with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl. Place chicken in bowl, making sure to cover cutlets in the mixture. Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Chop vegetables into cubes or strips. Feel free to use vegetables other than the ones used in this bowl.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, lay marinated chicken over a teaspoon of olive oil. Leave over heat and flip to thoroughly cook chicken. For a single chicken breast, cook about 8 minutes on each side, less per side for cutlets. (If you’re uncertain, check by cutting down the center.)
Vegetables can either be sautéed or roasted in an oven. Asparagus, bell peppers, baby onions and mushrooms are the easiest to sauté. Zucchini, eggplant, and butternut squash are more flavorful and easier to cook consistently by roasting in the oven.
To sauté, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to skillet, and add vegetables immediately. Toss in olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over vegetables while continuing to sauté for 7 to 10 minutes. (Eggplant and squash may take longer to sauté).
For oven roasted, lay cut vegetables on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil in a zig zag across the sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on middle rack of the oven at 350º for 8 to 12 minutes. The amount of time on oven will depend on vegetable thickness – a good rule of thumb is to check after the first 8 minutes.
Scoop freekeh into your bowl, as the first or base layer. For an extra vitamin dose, add a layer of greens, preferably a dense leaf like arugula, kale or spinach for the second layer. Finally, top with chicken on one side, and cooked vegetables on the other. Enjoy as is, or drizzle a simple lemon-olive oil vinaigrette for a final touch to this bowl chock-full of delicious goodness.
For more recipes by Sarah, visit When Apricots Bloom.