Late Summer Farro Salad

farro salad

I spent most of Sunday recovering from a too-fun Saturday involving yoga, sun, beer, wings, more beer, and then a lot of drinks.  This is a rough diagram of what Sunday looked like.  Location: The Bed.

cat bed diagram

It was rough in the most delicious way and I felt only a smidgen of guilt.

My crowning (and only) achievement of the day was a last minute scramble to make dinner from the remains of my CSA package, and might I say it turned out swimmingly.  Back pat, back pat.

eggplant and zucchini

This toothsome farro salad is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad.  Ottolenghi = swoon.  Farro = double swoon.  Combined together, they make a culinary trend implosion.  I feel like I should apologize, but really I’m doing a little dance shuffle and letting out a little squeal.

Seasonally, his delicious recipe is very cozy fall/early winter.  Please consider this my humble (and bumbling) attempt at the late summer harvest version.  The great thing about these grain salads is that they accommodate additions, subtractions or straight-up substitutions of other veggies you have laying around in your pantry.  Also, I opted for using the broiler in this version to cut down drastically on time, heat and steps.

The broiler is my new best friend.

cut zucchini cut eggplant farro

THE SALAD:

1 cup farro (I’ve been using the semi-pearled version, which takes about 15-20 minutes to cook)
1 medium eggplant (unpeeled, cut in large cubes about ¾”)
1 medium zucchini (unpeeled, cut in large cubes, about ¾”)
2 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 tomatoes, halved
¼ lb Capri goat cheese, or feta depending on your taste, crumbled
A large handful of parsley or dill, chopped roughtly

THE DRESSING:

Juice of 1 medium lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp smoked paprika, plus extra
½ garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp fine sea salt

Put the farro in a pot of boiling water and simmer until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Take all your eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and throw them into a sheet pan large enough to hold all the vegetables in one layer with a little bit of breathing room.  Drizzle the pan with a generous splash of olive oil and sea salt, and give the vegetables a good toss so they’re all evenly-ish coated.

vegetable army

Turn on your broiler and slide the pan in for 3 to 4 minutes.  The veggies should be browned (but not burned!), so keep an eye on them and don’t wander off anywhere.

Give them a good toss in the pan, and then it’s back under the broiler for another minute or two.  The eggplant and zucchini should be fork tender – if they aren’t, give them another toss and another minute under the broiler.

broiled vegetables

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

Once the veggies have cooled off a bit, the garlic can get squeezed out of their skins. Together with the tomatoes, they get a rough chop.  This is a happy-go-lucky undisciplined sort of salad, so no need for right angles and perfect cubes.

salad components

The cooked farro, roasted veggies, crumbled cheese, chopped herbs and all the dressing go into a bowl, and get a good toss.  Season with a good salt and pepper if so desired.

*** I was not feeling ready for zingy cheese, so I went with the super fresh Westfield Farm Capri goat cheese and some parsley to brighten things up.  If you’re feeling the feta (and why should you not), I like pairing that with dill so there aren’t too many aggressive flavors at war in your mouth.

Eat.

farro salad closeup

farro salad_2

 

Looking for other awesome farro recipes?

I’m a big fan of these:

Bon Appetit’s Farro with Acorn Squash and Kale

Smitten Kitchen’s One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes

Wrap It Up. August 16 2013.

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It’s Friday afternoon and the weather has been seven shades of gorgeous for the past few days.  This weekend, I’m off to DC to visit some friends, go for a nice long hike, and hopefully eat and imbibe many delicious things.  What are YOU doing?

Some things:

Eid, the last day of Ramadan, was this week and our office celebrated with a Middle Eastern feast, complete with live musicians.  The flavors, the spicing, and the general luscious smell that hung in the air for most of the day made me just want more.  I ran into The Pomegranate Diaries, and feel the need to try everything especially the Adas Polow, the Persian version of lentils and rice.  You know I love lentils and rice.

I’ve had four burgers in the past two weeks.  They were delicious but I feel terrible about it.  Thisthisthis, and this.

“It’s possible to obey all laws & conventions & still be a jerk. Success lies in rebellious love, unconventional kindness & defiant decency.”  Love that Cory Booker.  (Did you catch The Atlantic article about him?  I super love the idea of having ideological capital.

The National.  Underrated.

Happy weekend!

Love,

Grace

A Spring-y Lamb Stew.

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Lamb Stew Chunks

Oh my god.  Where the hell have you been?!  You are in SO much trouble.   I hope you have an amazing excuse.

I don’t.

I’ve been studying for a terrible set of exams.  I paid $1,000 and studied for weeks and weeks.  It soon became evident during the test-taking that the test itself was written by a group of illiterate, and possibly drunk, garden gnomes.  I’m embarrassed for my profession.  (Hey, CLARB.) And I hope to something holy that I passed.  Because I never ever want it to happen again.

In the spirit of renewal, and this soggy, nutty spring we’ve been having, I bring you the spring lamb stew.  Adapted from this super classic and cozy Irish Stew recipe circa 1963, I’ve updated this shizznit with brighter flavors and that super trendy grain, FARRO.  Farro is sundried tomatoes, kombucha, quinoa, and chia seeds all rolled into one – trendy, healthy, versatile, and damn it, extremely tasty.  It goes in this stew.

Judge away.

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 lb thick cut bacon, cut into little matchstick pieces (I love this double smoked bacon from Schaller and Weber.  It can totes have my babies.)
2 lbs of lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup flour
handful of fresh thyme leaves
2 onions, diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
4 carrots, diced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
1 cup pearled farro
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley, chopped with stems removed
Salt and pepper, as needed

Put all your little bacon friends in an good sized Dutch oven pot.

Lardons at Work

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Turn the heat to medium low and let the bacon sweat, stirring occasionally until they are lightly browned and crispy.  When the bacon is done, scoop it out and place it to the side for later.

While this is happening, season your lamb pieces well with salt and pepper, patting lightly to help the seasoning stick.  Lightly dredge the meat in the flour.  (Lightly!)

Brown the floured lamb pieces in the bacon fat on all sides, taking care to leave some space between the pieces and to be patient.  Browning = flavor.  This will take at least 3 or 4 batches to finish.

Browning Lamb Chunks

Once all the lamb pieces are browned, remove them from the pot and place them to the side as well.  Add the onions and thyme to pot, and cook on medium/high heat until they have softened and turned a nice caramel brown.

Onions and Thyme

Throw the lamb and bacon bits back in the pot along with the parsnip, and pour in enough water to just cover the lamb meat.  (Remember how much I love not having to use stock??  I really, really do.)  Bring the pot to a boil and cover, turning the heat down and letting the lamb cook at the smallest of simmers for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours until just tender.

While this is happening, throw your farro into a pot with water (check the package for the amount of water, I find that it varies slightly from batch to batch.) I added a vegetable bouillon cube to mine to amp up the flavor.  Cook until al dente, about 20 minutes and then drain any remaining liquid and set aside.

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(Have you guys tried these Rapunzel cubes??  They are sort of amazing and taste like…vegetables.  And not like dirt water, mushrooms or mud.  Amazing.)

Adding Vegetables to Stew

Add the carrots, turnips and parboiled farro to the pot with the meat and cook until the farro is tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the chopped parsley to the pot and let the stew cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

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And voila! Your stew awaits.

SOME NOTES:  This lamb stew is the perfect weapon to combat the last of the winter to spring chills, and to help your bide time while our local farmers markets ramp up for the new growing season.  Almost any root vegetables you have lying around will do to augment or substitute for the turnips, carrots and parsnip, just know that a pop of color is nice.  The bacon is great but not necessary, just add whatever cooking oil you prefer to substitute for the fat.

Good Morning, Sunday

kipperseggs_1

Hello there, world.

This Sunday morning felt like kippers and eggs.  For that matter, so did Tuesday night.  And last Sunday afternoon.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again.  Quick meals that have the right amount of cozy indulgence mixed with plain old comfort don’t come around all that often.   Like soft scrambled eggs, and a slice of good toast with butter and smoked fish on top, these dishes are like slipping on a well-worn robe after a long day of being up and about.

kipperseggs_3

A few things not about kippers.

I’ve been rather single-mindedly slogging through this food memoir list.  The last two I read were Marcella Hazan’s Amarcord, and Jacques Pepin’s The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.  Both are formidable giants in the food world – they have published, they have taught, and they’ve blazed trails in their own individual way.  Marcella Hazan?  Not sure I’d want to hang with her.  Her memoir, though stocked with some great anecdotes, seemed more like a way to settle up with the world on some long held grudges and resentments.  Deserved?  Possibly.  But not attractive.  Jacques Pepin, on the other hand?  Maybe he just had a better editor, but each and every story just made me wish really hard that he would be my friend.   I would totally go mushroom picking with him anytime.  I liked his unpretentious way of talking about food, his easy way with people, and his utter lack of horn tooting.

This post from Brain Pickings about Ann Patchett caught my eye.  “Every choice lays down a trail of bread crumbs, so that when you look behind you there appears to be a very clear path that points straight to the place where you now stand. But when you look ahead there isn’t a bread crumb in sight — there are just a few shrubs, a bunch of trees, a handful of skittish woodland creatures. You glance from left to right and find no indication of which way you’re supposed to go. And so you stand there, sniffing at the wind, looking for directional clues in the growth patterns of moss, and you think, What now?”

The first story from Sum, by David Eagleman.

Christoph Niemann is the best.  Yet again.

And good morning.

A Little Mujaddara

winter blues

Dear friends,

We’re in that part of winter where it feels like the cold has seeped deep into my bones and I won’t ever know what it feels like to be warm again.  I’ve learned the hard way that my bean boots don’t have the greatest traction on icy sidewalks.  My coat hood, so necessary for survival, cuts off all peripheral vision and a good percentage of my ability to hear…both important attributes when moving about our crowded, beloved city.  This is exactly the time you should start talking to me about the tropical island that you have just gone to / about to go to.  I would love that.

Isn’t it funny how quickly we adapt to the status quo?  I know in a few months, I’ll be trudging along the streets, with the smell of hot asphalt in the air and a river of sweat running down my back, wishing fervently to live in an igloo.  All I will want is a dark, cool place to retreat to.  I’ve only very recently started adapting to a new job that operates at a much more bureaucratic pace than I’ve been used to.  For the first two months, I was crawling out of my skin.  This past week, I started to understand how to let the troublesome things go by, like quips in a sitcom, and use the time that I have to learn things I want to know about and meet new people that I would have never otherwise met.

I’m worrying about being brave.   I’m worrying about losing time.

Onion Halved

I’m not stressed, but I’m not settled.  There’s a vibrating part of me that’s just wanting to pounce (on what I’m not sure), but just as ready to curl up in a ball in my bed with a whiskey and a cat, and never come out.  We’ll just call this the winter blues.  One amazing antidote?  Besides thisAnd thisAnd this?  A little mujaddara, a super simple dish of rice, lentils and fried onions that will make you feel like you’re being petted with a large, warm cashmere glove.

This earnest vegan combination comes from the Middle East, and has been circling the food blogging world for a while now.  Arabic for SMALLPOX (wiki says lentils look like pockmarks), this dish benefits from the best your pantry has to offer.  With so few ingredients, each one is key – a good olive oil, sea salt and black pepper will help elevate your mujaddara to mindblowing levels.  This recipe is adapted from Aarti Sequira’s version. I love the way she builds flavor by first blooming the spices and toasting the rice, as well as letting the ingredients cook together rather than mixing them together at the end as other recipes do.   Because I like my mujaddara to whisper, not shout, I’ve taken away some of the zingier spicing, and substituted white rice with fragrant brown basmati rice.

By the way, it’s moojahdahra.

Rice and Lentil FriendsSliced Onions

Ingredients

1 cup organic green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (I love the Tellicherry ones from Kalustyans.)
3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 cup brown basmati rice
Greek yogurt, for garnish
Salt, as needed

First things first.  The lentils get put into a medium saucepan along with enough water to cover them by at least an inch.  Bring the pot up to a boil and then lower the heat to allow for the smallest of simmers.  The lentils should be tender and ready to go after 20 minutes.  Drain the lentils and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, we’ll be super efficient and take care of the onions.  Take a large saucepan, and put in the olive oil.  Let the oil warm up a little over medium heat and add in the peppercorns and cumin seeds.  Give the pan a little swirl.  After a minute, you start to smell the spices (which activate when you heat them!) and the cumin seeds should be a just little darker than when you started.

Onions in Seasoned Oil

Add the onions, along with a half teaspoon of salt.  This next step will depend on how much time you have.  The longer and slower you cook your onions, the more amazing they will be.  Think Funyuns vs. french onion soup.  No, I kid.  Things will be fine.  But slower will be finer.  We’re aiming for onions with a deep brown overall color and a little bit of crispiness along the edges.  This is the non-negotiable part of the assignment.

Now the choose-your-own-adventure part:  Over medium-high heat, carmelizing the onions will take about 20 minutes. Take the heat down to low-medium and we’re talking at least 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your pan.  Splash the onions with a little water if they stick to the bottom of the pan.

Softened Onions

Browned Onions

When the onions are done, remove about half of the onions with tongs or a slotted spoon and set them aside to use as garnish later on.  (Once, I forgot this step and almost went out to look for orphan children to separate the onions from the rice a la Argo.)

Mixing In Rice

Add the rice to the remaining onions in the pan over medium-high heat, stirring gently until some rice grains just start to brown. Add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt and let it come to a boil. Turn the heat down to low so that the pan is at a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes. The water should be completely evaporated and rice should be tender. If there’s still too much water in the bottom, put the lid back on and cook for another 5 minutes.  If the rice is still a little crunchy, pour in another 1/2 cup of water and recover for another 5 minutes.

Once the rice is done, turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for about 5 minutes.

Serve with the reserved caramelized onions, and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt on top.  I like to add a light sprinkle of a good sea salt and a squeeze of lemon as well, but you’ll figure out how you like your mujadarra after a bowl or two.  Or three.

Mujadarra Close Up

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