Mistakes should always turn out so well. On a rushed trip to the Oriental Pastry & Grocery on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn this past spring, I scooped up what I thought was rice for a stir fry that I'd planned to make that night. Once I got home, however, it was apparent that this slightly brownish/greenish grain was not rice. But I was hungry and not eager to head back out into the rainy night to pick up "regular" rice, so I threw this strange-looking grain into my rice cooker.

As it cooked, the fragrance that filled my galley-sized kitchen had me worried. What was I cooking? I didn't want to welcome my wife home from her stressful day at work with a completely bizarre and ruined dish! But lo-and-behold, when I did serve what was supposed to be a simple chicken and vegetable stir-fry, we could tell at first bite that the inclusion of this mystery grain had turned this stir fry on its head. It had a deep, smokey flavor and robust texture. In a word, we were hooked.

I am talking about freekeh [FREAK-ahhh]. This roasted green wheat is a traditional Middle Eastern food that has been around since ancient times—even garnering it a mention in the Bible—and has recently been making a push to unseat quinoa as the "hip grain." According to Gary Moustapha—the owner of Oriental Pastry & Grocery who's originally from Damascus, where freekeh is a culinary staple—Freekeh gets its signature smokey flavor through a unique harvesting method. "The wheat is picked when it is still very young—still green and not yet yellow—and then roasted, almost burned really, then scrubbed off the burnt part of the stalk."

The word freekeh is actually derived from the Arabic work "farik" which translates into "rubbed." This method allows freekeh to retain many of the vitamins and minerals that other methods would do not—just make sure you wash it thoroughly. In fact, freekeh has more dietary fiber, protein and calcium than both quinoa and brown rice.

Since my discovery of freekeh, I have substituted it for any and all recipes that call for rice, including a weekend favorite, tikka masala. But I've also begun delving more into traditional recipes such as this Lemon Chicken with Dill and Carrots. One tip that Moustapha shared was to always use vegetable broth in preparing freekeh. "Water is no good!" he declared.

Although I still rely on my friend Gary at Oriental Pastry & Grocery for my freekeh, you can find it at other Middle Eastern grocers such as Sahadi's, in addition to most Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.