November 1st, 2010

Farro, for Spring or Fall

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This week I have been testing some recipes for an article for RELISH Magazine. It’s for a story that I’m writing about our Third Thursday Community Pot Luck that will run in May of next year (!)

With the many months that separate article submission and publish dates, it can tricky to test recipes, especially with peak of summer produce in the dreary heart of winter.

But, as luck would have it, this is a springtime story. And many of the vegetables that come to market in early spring also make a brief wondrous appearance in early fall.

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Like this gorgeous selection that I bought from Arugula’s Star of Neal Family Farms. Wide, crinkly leaves of Red Russian Kale, plump, oh-so-sweet sugar snap peas, and, without question, the prettiest-tastiest bundle of carrots I have eaten in a long time—if ever!

All of these lush veggies are the precise ingredients needed for one of our featured recipes, as created by Third-Thursday Potlucker Rhonda.

Rhonda is a self-effacing cook, loathe to recognize her talents in the kitchen. But she knows good food, and can craft some mighty tasty dishes.
It’s one of the benefits of being a part of the potluck: I get to sample so many good things, prepared with flavor profiles outside of my typical use.

I liked her dish so much, that I want to share it with you now, while you might have access to some of those early spring/early fall Cool Weather Crops. You won’t have to wait for next May to enjoy!

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Rhonda’s Farro Salad with Toasted Sesame-Sweet Garlic Dressing has a couple of those “outside-my-usual” elements: that nutty whole grain known best to the Italians, Farro, and a Far East flavor: toasted sesame oil.

That sesame oil is powerful stuff–a thimbleful imparts a rich roasted color and flavor to a dressing. Rhonda’s vinaigrette uses a tetch more than that, mixed with a neutral canola oil. She also sweats sliced garlic in gentle heat, to sweeten it, while toasting mustard seeds.

This results in a kind of sweet-sour dressing, garlicky, with a hint of the East.

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Farro is an ancient whole grain of the wheat family, long cultivated in Italy, and prized for its distinct nutlike flavor and soft but chewy texture. Some think it tastes like a combination of wheat berries and barley. I would agree, and say that both its texture and taste are superior.

If you can find Italian Pearled Farro, as I did at Whole Foods, I recommend it. You won’t have to soak it in advance, and it will cook easily in less than half an hour.

One cup dry will yield 2 cups cooked.

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The vegetable preparation is really a simple stir fry. Start with the sturdy kale on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the carrots. If you can find these burgundy colored carrots—deep red skins covering bright orange interior–buy them! They have a really earthy-sweet spiciness that is so delicious. Plus, their color just knocks me out.

Sugar snaps take no time to cook, so add them at the very last. Stir them around for thirty seconds–just long enough to brighten that green.

Combine all the elements—farro, veggies, dressing, by folding. This dish is terrific served warm, room temperature, or chilled. It tastes fantastic the next day. It travels well. And, with its vegan ways, it can satisfy a wide range of people. Like our Third Thursday Community Pot Luck friends.

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RHONDA’S FARRO WITH SPRING/FALL VEGGIES
and TOASTED SESAME SWEET GARLIC DRESSING

Farro and Vegetables
1 c. Farro, rinsed
6 c. Water, lightly salted
1 T. Canola Oil
8 leaves of Kale, stemmed and chopped
½ lb. Sugar Snap Peas, strung, and cut on the bias into threes
½ lb. Carrots, cut on the bias
Salt
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

bed of Arugula, for serving

Add farro to a pot of boiling water and cook for approximately 25 minutes.

In a skillet on medium heat, sauté the kale until collapsed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Add carrots, and continue to cook—stir fry style—for another couple of minutes, then add the yellow pepper strips, and finally, the sugar snaps. The kale will be tender, and the other vegetables will be tender-crisp.

Fold into the cooked farro, along with the toasted sesame-sweet garlic dressing. Reserve a little dressing to enliven the salad later, or dollop on top when you serve it.

Delicious warm, room temp, or chilled over a bed of fresh greens, like arugula.

Toasted Sesame-Sweet Garlic Dressing
3 cloves fresh Garlic, sliced thin
1 T. Canola Oil
½ t. Mustard Seed
4 T. Cider Vinegar
1 T. Sugar
¼ t. Salt
1 Green Onion, coarsely chopped
10 T. Canola Oil
1 T. Toasted Sesame Oil

Gently heat a skillet and add 1 T. canola oil. Add sliced garlic and mustard seeds. Cook just enough to “sweat” the garlic—it will become softened, and sweeter. Remove from heat. In a food processor fitted with the swivel blade, place cider vinegar, sugar, salt, green onion, and cooked garlic-mustard seed mix. Pulse these together, then process, pouring in the canola oil, a little at a time. Finish with the toasted sesame oil. The dressing will emulsify nicely. Taste for seasonings and adjust. If you want peppery heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes here too.

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Posted in Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Salads, Vegan | 23 Comments »