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Keeping Sustainable Farming Alive, with an Autumn Freekeh Recipe Inspired by a Palestinian Farmer’s Box!

posted on: Sep 12, 2018

By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer

Every time any of us visit a farmer’s market, we make a strong statement.  Many choose farmer’s market produce over supermarket produce because they value the exceptional flavor, they want to support family-run farms over corporate run farms, and in turn, want to vote with their dollars to support sustainable farming. The power of produce cannot be underestimated, and where you spend your money on food can have a profound and far-reaching impact. The Equal Exchange Coop has made it possible to support struggling farmers under threat of war or multinational corporation infiltration all over the world, and more recently have made a positive impact on small farms in Palestine.

Equal Exchange is worker based cooperative based upon standard democratic principles. The goal is not to maximize profits, nor returns to investors, but to bring to the workplace many of the rights and responsibilities that we hold as citizens in our communities.  Fair Trade is a way of doing business that ultimately aims to keep small farmers an active part of the world marketplace, and aims to empower consumers to make purchases that support their values. The easiest way to support authentic Fair Trade is to purchase fairly traded products from small farmers. By making the choice to buy fairly traded products, you help provide health care, education and technical training for farmers, workers, and artisans around the world. By supporting Equal Exchange, you join the movement to reclaim the food system – to make it better for farmers, consumers, and the earth.

Palestinian farmers, in particular, have struggled from land confiscation, lack of mobility, and water shortages. Equal Exchange has recently partnered with Palestinian farmers to create the first-ever Palestinian Farmer’s box to help them survive.  

This box contains pantry items that can mix beautifully with your local farm fresh produce to create outstanding Middle Eastern dishes. Included in the box are massive dates from Jericho with a caramel-like flavor, smoky and nutty freekeh– a Palestinian grain rich in iron and fiber, hand-rolled Maftoul or couscous by a Palestinian cooperative of women, freshly picked and dried za’atar spice, and ultra large almonds in the shell, roasted and salted to perfection.


To learn more about the items available in the Palestinian boxes and how it has helped farmers and food artisans thrive, click on the video below:

Here is a beautiful recipe using 4 ingredients from the Palestinian Farmer’s box. Freekeh is a staple in the Palestinian diet for good reason. Chock full of fiber, iron, and even protein, freekeh is a green wheat that is harvested young. The grain is then roasted and rubbed to create a nutty and smoky flavor. This super grain has more protein and twice as much fiber as quinoa! While people might be intimated about cooking freekeh, the cooking method is incredibly easy. All you have to do is boil the freekeh in a broth, then reduce the heat and simmer as you would for rice. This freekeh pilaf is all at once sweet, savory, nutty and crunchy, using the beautiful flavors of fall in one middle eastern bowl of goodness. For the video tutorial on how to make it, click on the video below:

Autumn Freekeh Pilaf

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 cup freekeh

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil divided

½ an onion, finely chopped

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

½ small butternut squash, chopped into small cubes

¼ finely chopped herbs like mint, basil, or a combination of both

½ cup chopped or sliced almonds (salted and roasted)

3 dates, chopped into small cubes

⅓ c halloumi cheese, chopped into small cubes


Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup olive oil

1 tbsp za’atar

1 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a saucepan, melt 1 tbsp each butter and oil, add the onion and saute until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the freekeh, and stir some more, then add the broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Boil this mixture, then reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes (check on it to make sure all the liquid is absorbed, add more liquid if it dries too quickly). Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, combine 1 tbsp olive oil, butternut squash, and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until slightly browned. Once the freekeh has finished cooking, let cool for about 20 minutes before adding the herbs, dates, cheese, and butternut squash once it has finished roasting.  In a jar combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk with a fork. Pour dressing on the freekeh mixture, and gently incorporate. Top with almonds before serving warm or cold.



Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, food writer, and host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond  You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at    Her recipes can also be found at:

To order Fair Trade Palestinian Maftoul, go to:

To get on the waiting list for future Palestinian Harvest Boxes, click on the link below: