Instead of launching into whatever subject matter I’ve decided I want to explore today, I thought I would take the novel approach of telling you a little bit about this recipe.
I’m breaking from my usual practice simply because this may be the first time you’ve encountered the word, “freekeh” and perhaps “za’atar” is also new to you.
Freekeh is made from toasted green wheat and has a unique smoky, herbal flavour. It’s prepared similarly to rice or bulgur. Za’atar is a blend of thyme, sesame and sumac; it’s delicious on warm pita with a drizzle of olive oil or sprinkled over popcorn. You can find these ingredients at a Middle Eastern grocer or you should be able to find Bob’s Red Mill cracked freekeh in the organic section of your local superstore and Za’atar is a PC Black Label offering in the spice aisle.
I know we’ve all had it up to HERE with physical distancing, working from home, and the fucking weather. Instead of spending yet another instalment wasting my breath on things I can’t do anything about, I thought it might be more fun to stop in at Imagination Station.
On today’s sojourn in Imagination Station, I thought I would map out what my ideal first day “back to normal” would look like. Please note: this is a fantasy exercise.
So, as I’m sure many of you can relate, especially those who suffer from terrible judgment and decided to attempt your own COVID CUT (trademark pending), I’ll be rushing to my salon to get a fresh cut and colour.
Scratch that. FIRST things, first. I’ll brave the world and encounters of the human kind with my blend of dirty blonde and grey roots showing, and rush to Edgar over in Gatineau. I’ll stride in, not having to contend with the usual hoards of hungry would-be diners queued up outside, where I’ll stuff my face with their pillowy Dutch baby. A Yorkshire-pudding style skillet pancake topped with a slab of perfectly crusted pork belly, hunks of aged white cheddar, and spoonfuls of apple compote.
Once I’ve eaten my fill at brunch, THEN I’ll head downtown to be reunited with my colorist Sonia and stylist Frankie at Fernando Cellini. While there, I’ll sip on a bottomless mimosa and relish the mere fact that I’m less than 6 feet away from other humans again.
Freshly styled, watered, and fed, I’ll need to satisfy my other…urges. At which point, I’ll miraculously stumble upon the cast of Avengers: Endgame and have the excruciating task of deciding who to ravage. Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, it’s just too hard to pick just one.
That would probably take up the better part of the afternoon, and I’m sure I’d need a nap after all that strenuous activity as I’ve averaged about 100 steps per day in quarantine. Upon rising from my slumber, disentangling myself from various well-muscled limbs, I would be positively famished, not to mention parched.
So, presto, change-o, full glam squad treatment – new hair, new makeup, new outfit, and I’d trot off to Riviera for some perfectly mixed cocktails – thankfully made by someone else, for the first time in months. My girlfriends would be perched along the gleaming brass bar, ready to get the evening started.
The conversation would flow effortlessly and we wouldn’t once slip into the sordid subject of COVID-19 – it wouldn’t come up even once. Meanwhile, we’d tuck into plates of mushrooms on toast, ricotta gnudi, and freshly shucked oysters. Rounding out the evening with several bottles of wine and every dessert on offer.
In spite of all the socializing, we wouldn’t be taxed by this sudden shift from total solitude to a full-day of human interaction and we’d burn the midnight oil on the dance floor of the Elmdale Tavern. Flawlessly executing all of our now mastered TikTok dances to an adoring audience of beautiful people.
We’d close down the bar at 2 a.m., retire to our comfy beds, wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next day, without even the faintest shadow of a hangover and rejoice in the knowledge that we could see each other again that day – not over Zoom.
Freekeh Salad with Halloumi & Tahini Za’atar Dressing
- 5 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 cup cracked freekeh
- 1 ½ tsp salt divided
- 2 ½ cups water
- 1 ½ tsp za’atar
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup hot water
- 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ½ cup sliced green olives
- ½ cup fresh parsley coarsely chopped, divided
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 tbsp red onion finely diced
- 1 orange peeled, segmented and coarsely chopped
- 10 oz halloumi sliced into 6 equal slices and patted dry
- ¼ cup salted roasted sunflower seeds
- 1 pita grilled
Bring water and 1 tsp salt to a boil, add cracked freekeh. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Let cool.
In a large bowl, stir together za’atar, tahini, vinegar and 2 tbsp hot water. Add chickpeas, olives, half the parsley, tomatoes, onion, orange, 1/4 cup of olive oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to coat.
In a medium nonstick pan, heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add halloumi slices and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Carefully remove from pan and slice into bite-sized pieces. Add to bowl.
Once freekeh is cool then add to bowl with other ingredients; toss well. When ready to serve, place on a platter and garnish with remaining parsley, sunflower seeds, and torn up grilled pita.
Recipe adapted from: Wilson-Vuksanovic, Tonia. “Halloumi with Freekeh, Chickpea & Tahini Za’atar Dressing” Food & Drink. Early Summer 2020.