Freekeh soup with spicy harissa shrimp and dates

Recipe courtesy of Maria Speck, Simple Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes for Living Well

Toasting gives grains a brilliant boost. Yet for me, during the week, this is normally one step too many. Here is where freekeh comes in handy: this almost forest-green wheat adds a roasty aroma to your dinner without actually needing to toast it.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 ½ cups chopped red onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups chopped celery (1⁄2-inch pieces; about 3 stalks),
  • 1 ½ cups chopped red bell pepper (1⁄2-inch chunks; about 1 bell pepper)
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water, or cooking liquid from the lentils topped off with water
  • 1 cup Village Harvest freekeh
  • 1 ½ cups cooked French lentils, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained


  • 1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp, shell-on or peeled and deveined


  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more as needed
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat- leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped firm dates, preferably Deglet Noor 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges, for serving


To make the soup, heat a large Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil and wait until it shimmers. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the broth, water, freekeh, and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the freekeh is tender with a slight chewiness, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir in the lentils.

Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp: Place a rack about 4 inches from the broiler and heat on high for about 5 minutes. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or coat with cooking spray.

Combine 1 tablespoon harissa paste (more if you like it spicy), the olive oil, turmeric, Aleppo pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, gently rub in the harissa mixture, and allow to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the soup is almost done. Using paper towels, gently pat dry the shrimp and place on the baking sheet.

Broil until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes, flipping them once in between with a metal spatula. To finish, remove the soup from the heat and add the pepper and the lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with the 1⁄4 cup parsley.

Divide between six wide shallow bowls and place 4 to 5 shrimp on top of each. Sprinkle each with 1⁄2 tablespoon of the dates, a bit of the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, and serve at once, with lemon wedges on the side.

You can cook the lentils while you prep your ingredients. Harissa is a traditional Tunisian chile paste infused with spices such as garlic and coriander. Look for it in well-stocked supermarkets or Middle Eastern stores.
Number of servings (yield): 6

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