Freekeh with Grilled Zucchini + Ricotta

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I spent Thanksgiving and a few chilly, festive weeks in Michigan this past November/December, and came back to Melbourne just in time for Christmas. Of course, this meant returning to the dead heat of summer, though that didn't stop us from holiday feasting, with too much ham, cookies, and cakes (no matter where in the world you are, it isn't Christmas without a bit of overeating).

With Christmas and New Year's under our (snug) belts, it now feels like we're settling into the rituals of summer. Long warm evenings, usually cooking on the barbecue, sipping on chilled rosé, and getting creative with what is possibly the most emblematic image of summer to me - an overload of zucchini.

Once again, we're putting this veg to good use in just about every meal. I often end up grating it into frittatas and breads, or shaving it with a mix of other vegetables. This recipe, though, leaves zucchini as the star of the show, giving it some char on the grill, piling it high over a bed of freekeh, and topping it with bright notes of herbs, seeds, and light ricotta (I made mine fresh, but you can of course use quality store-bought ricotta).  I think it's my favorite zucchini recipe yet... though it's still pretty early in the season. 

Freekeh with Grilled Zucchini + Ricotta

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 cup freekeh, cooked
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
Handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
Generous pinch of za'atar

Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, and olive oil with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper until well combined. Set aside.

Lay a clean tea towel on your bench or table and place zucchini slices on top in a single layer; sprinkle zucchini slices with 1/4 teaspoon of salt; flip slices over and salt the other side with another 1/4 teaspoon salt. Top slices with another clean tea towel. Allow zucchini to rest and release some of its moisture, at least ten minutes. 

Meanwhile, fire up the grill. If you're cooking over coals, you want to wait until you've got hot embers and not just flames, as this will provide more even cooking. If you're using a grill pan, place it on the stove over medium-high heat.

Arrange zucchini in a single layer on the grill, cooking undisturbed until grill marks form, 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your slices). Flip zucchini slices and cook another 3-5 minutes until the zucchini rounds are nicely charred and have become slightly tender. 

To serve: toss freekeh with dressing and pile onto a platter or shallow serving bowl. Top with warm grilled zucchini, a drizzle of olive oil, spoonfuls of ricotta, fresh dill, and za'atar. Serve immediately. 

Serves 4