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farro pilaf with gold beets

November 6th, 2011 | Comments Off

There’s no other choice now. The clocks are switched, falling back; the light in the morning is better but soon the winter darkness will settle on our afternoons. Temps will drop and all sorts of things happen that we’ve been very fortunate, up until now, to have avoided.

But still, we’ve had some beautiful weather. And right now I’m sitting in the wan light of dawn watching the clouds scuttle across the sky at a fast, furious clip. The patio door is open and it’s mild for a November morning. The clouds are fascinating, wind-whipped deep blue patches racing along as if they’ve got somewhere important they need to be. I sip my coffee, watching, taking it all in.

In a few weeks we’ll have Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to take that in as well. I’m also trying to plan a menu that doesn’t focus around meat, even debating whether to just do what I want and make a completely meat-free meal, or bow to convention, and what the rest of my family expects and make a turkey. The jury is still out on that one.

I do know one of the sides I plan to make.

Just about two years ago I came across this recipe, intrigued by Farro and the gold beets that I’d fallen in love with, and the first bite was a revelation. Somewhere in this dish, I began to see that a meal could be enjoyed without meat, and one that would leave me satiated without the bloat of something heavy. It was a good revelation, and something to start me on the road to better health.

Every component of this dish is not only perfect alone, but when mingled with each other makes for so much amazing texture and flavor. The Farro is chewy, with a deep nutty flavor; then you’ve got the beets and their greens to offer up a dark, earthy taste, a crisp pepper, robust cheese and a scatter of chopped pecans to add a bit more crunch. Every element of it is lovely, and on it’s own it could easily be a meal. Next to your turkey, it’s a terrific side dish.

I can’t complain about the seasonal change, the coming cold, or even the snow that’s rumored to fly soon. I’m ready, and with recipes like this, I’ll be warm from the inside too.

Got a favorite recipe or dish that keeps you warm and toasty in cold weather?

 

Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets

 

3 large gold beets, roasted and diced, with greens washed, de-ribbed and rough chopped
2-3 c. cooked farro (can sub brown rice)
1 red pepper, seeded, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/3 c. pecan pieces
salt and pepper to taste

{{Farro can be cooked like any other grain, with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain; 1 cup uncooked will yield the amount needed for this recipe. It should be tender to the bite, not too firm with a texture similar to barley. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly in a wire sieve prior to cooking. It can be very dusty.}}

In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil of choice and add red pepper, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add shallot, cooking until soft and slightly browned, maybe 5-8 more minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring continually until just barely wilted. Stir in the cooked farro and diced beets. Add about 1/3 cup of water and combine. Cover the pot, turn heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until heated fully through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and nuts.

KATE’S NOTES:
The mellow flavors of the beets and farro simply beg for a good salty and robust cheese. Feta is perfect, goat cheese would be great but blue cheese and gorgonzola also would work nicely. If you can’t find Farro, use Wheat Berries, or long grain brown rice.

 

~~originally from The New York Times recipes for Health and Nutrition, March 27, 2009; adapted by Kate

What’s on YOUR plate this month??


toasted farro with greens and tahini

July 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I’m learning a lot on this plant-friendly journey, with the biggest lesson being that all plants based meals, while gorgeous in color, aren’t always the easiest to photograph.

Take this Farro and Greens dish……

It was delicious, satisfying and full of textures and tastes. But when I tried to plate it to photograph, I stared down at it’s curly leaves of kale, it’s burnished grains and hearty nuts and said  “Dang, you’re kind of homely.” Because it was, through no fault of it’s own though.

Thankfully I didn’t hurt it’s feelings.

I ended up having to take it outside into full on natural light, not the light through the west window in my sunroom where I usually set up my shots. Even then, outside it took about 8 shots before I really started getting the angle right, the focus firm and the shot like I wanted. And I was talking to it. Outside. On my patio steps, hunched over to get the right angle and mumbling to my food. Yeah. I’m THAT kind of blogger.

But enough already….. delicious? Did I mention that? Wow with a capital “W” !!! It was good at room temperature after I tossed all the ingredients together. It was fine, oh so fine, when I ate it cold for lunch the very next day. And it was still good heated up a day or two after that.

And that’s another thing I’m learning; plant-based foods can manage a patient wait in your fridge so much longer than a dish with meat. (yeah, I know…..duh) And they can happily sit on your counter for a while (like over an hour when you, ahem, forget about them there) and really there’s no loss to you, or risk in it at all.

And quick….. quick! Plant based meals are lickety-split quick, people. I had this done in the time it took to slowly simmer the kale to a great tenderness, all of 15 minutes. A recent lunch with red chard and great northern beans took maybe 5 minutes to pull together. A side salad, those amazing chickpeas I just talked about? Less than 10. My humongous salads topped with a whole rainbow of crunchy veggies? Well, if I take the time to prep all of it ahead of time and keep them in containers, I can have a giant heaping bowl of a masticator’s delight in maybe 5 easy minutes. I made Peanut Noodles, and in the time it took to boil water and cook the noodles, the pepper, cucumber, green onion and carrot were done and sitting on the counter.

So yeah…. quick. And delicious. And healthy….. I still feel so amazing, and the best part? Even on those nights I don’t sleep so good, which seems to be the story of my life, I still am energetic enough to get through the day without collapsing. I feel tired, but the exhaustion that I had come to expect just isn’t there anymore. I feel pretty humbled by this little experiment, and so grateful for the ability to swiftly change directions, to move into even better health and well-being and to be able to talk about it and share it with you.

Now if only these pretty, colorful and healthy little meals would step up their game under my camera lens.

 

Toasted Farro with Greens and Tahini

1 c. cooked farro, or wheatberries, cooled and chilled.
2 T. tahini
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 c. tightly packed greens, chopped- you can use kale, spinach, chard, mustard, collard, turnip… whatever you like
1/2 c. parsley leaves
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. chopped nuts, such as pecans or almonds (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the tahini and olive oil with two tablespoon of water and set aside.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. When very hot, add the chilled farro. Don’t mind if a little moisture causes it to hiss or sizzle. It will cook off as you toast the grain. Shake the pan often, heating the grains until they’re very warm and fragrant, maybe 5 minutes. Be very careful not to burn them. When hot and toasty, remove grains to a bowl. To empty skillet, add 1/3 cup of water and the greens, stirring and cooking until they’re tender but still have a bit of toothy bite. Add the farro and the tahini mix, and stir to combine. Allow to cook for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with nuts, if using.

Source: Food and Wine magazine, with heavy modifications

 

KATE’S NOTES: I used wheatberries for the farro in the recipe as I had some already cooked in the freezer and farro is often hard to find. They make a perfect substitute. You could also sub in cilantro in place of the parsley, or add more fresh herbs, like thyme or oregano. I also added in lemon zest to make the overall flavor brighter.

 

Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets

November 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments »

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Pictures can be amazing, can’t they?

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I sometimes surprise myself when I am going through the photos I’ve taken of my recipes. There are, without a doubt, the ones that hastily cause you to hit the ‘Delete’ key, shuddering in horror; they’re too close or too cloudy or they just don’t allow for one to discern what’s on the plate. They’re overexposed. Ugly. But those tiny slips caught in the wink of the shutter are evened out by beauties that can convey taste, aroma, and feel with one glance. The beauties that make you go ‘Wow’ and when you place them in your post, they literally tell the story without you needing to do much else. But every food has a story. Sometimes the tale tells of a feet-first plunge headlong into love with a certain food, a single bite causing your taste-buds to explode while the endorphins engulf your brain. You’re whupped and there’s no going back. Or it may be a telling of how we find a food that quietly asserts itself into our life, a slow and deliberate culinary courtship. Maybe the first exposure isn’t mind-blowing, but it isn’t a dud either. You look forward to the next time. You know there’s more to it than this. After a few meetings, the quiver in your heart starts to build and when you spy your current food crush, it’s silly how your chest seems to collapse in relief that you’ll be together again.

This past year I crushed, big time, into total infatuation with gold beets, and their greens. It didn’t take much. By routinely visiting the organic farmer at the local markets who carried these burnished lovelies and allowing them to roast to their full potential, I became fully acquainted with their earthy solid personality. We just clicked, those beets and I. It was quality time well spent. Mike gave me an enthusiastic endorsement for sauteed beet greens and we never looked back. Beets were in the recipe box, finally. We ate them so much that it was a turgid and satiated overkill. We sighed a lot during those dinner meals. Then high summer came, the corn took hold along with eggplants so shiny and purple, followed by a parade of tomatoes and zucchini and endless grilling adventures. Beets were nearly forgotten, sad as it was. But I was sold on the roasting method, and most days couldn’t even consider turning on the oven. They simply had to wait. I realized after a while that I missed them a great deal but I knew, like any solid friendship, that we would endure through our separation.

Then I found this recipe. It was the way back to my summer love of beets and caused me to drive across town just to find a bunch, greens attached, that would do this recipe justice. The moment we connected again was like any friendship renewed after absence. No lapse of time could remove the bond and the oven, once more, shared it’s warmth with my old friends and turned them soft and supple.

I was enamored…no, scratch that… bewitched by the flavors that came from this dish. It’s simple base of whole grain farro is more than capable of standing up to the lusty flavor and texture of beets and their greens, and the beets happily share their colors with the grain to diffuse the entire dish in sunshine-y warmth. Since 2007 I’ve been experimenting with whole grains, and I found farro to be an amicable and easy friend to bring into my life, a chewy and simple grain that mimics wheatberries and a heartier barley. Never mind that it was costly. Or that only one store I knew carried an affordable brand. Of all the whole grains I’ve encountered in the past two years, this one has become a good and trusted companion, steadfast, reliable and so so good for me. We all need friends like that in our lives, in both our hearts and our pantry.

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The original recipe for this dish was in salad form, but for a November meal, a cold offering wasn’t going to cut it. Even with the warm sunshine that’s been poured upon us, the chill and darkness comes quickly with the descent of the five-o’clock hour, and something steaming, whether a bowl or a plate, more appropriately fits the season. I’ll revisit the salad option next Spring when the markets open again, and I can once more hone in on that stand, with the kind bearded farmer behind the table, the dirt still stuck to his knuckles. For this time of year, and especially with the brisk wind that came up after several days of that limpid sunshine, a pilaf was exactly what we needed.

Farro is not a quick grain to cook, and you’ll find many recipes call for it to be soaked ahead of time, but I’ve discovered that to be unnecessary. Washed and placed in boiling water, the grain cooks up deliciously chewy in 35-45 minutes, and once cooked to that al denté stage, it freezes really well with little loss of texture. And maybe it’s the way it is with you too, but I roast my beets or I simply don’t eat them. Call me picky, but I never met a beet I wanted to devour before being introduced to those that mellowed in the oven, swaddled in foil, and so perfectly tender that the skins slipped off with hardly any effort. Again, this isn’t quick. I made both the farro and the beets the day prior to creating this pilaf. It worked for all of us.

Farro Pilaf with Gold Beets
originally from The New York Times recipes for Health and Nutrition, March 27, 2009; adapted by Kate

3 large gold beets, roasted and diced, with greens washed, de-ribbed and rough chopped
2-3 c. cooked farro (can sub brown rice)
1 red pepper, seeded, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta or goat cheese
1/3 c. pecan pieces
salt and pepper to taste

{{Farro can be cooked like any other grain, with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain; 1 cup uncooked will yield the amount needed for this recipe. It should be tender to the bite, not too firm with a texture similar to barley. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly in a wire sieve prior to cooking. It can be very dusty.}}

In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil of choice and add red pepper, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add shallot, cooking until soft and slightly browned, maybe 5-8 more minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring continually until just barely wilted. Stir in the cooked farro and diced beets. Add about 1/3 cup of water and combine. Cover the pot, turn heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until heated fully through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and nuts.

KATE’S NOTES:
The mellow flavors of the beets and farro simply beg for a good salty and robust cheese. Feta is perfect, goat cheese would be great but blue cheese and gorgonzola also would work nicely.

Overload, and salvation

April 20th, 2009 | 9 Comments »

There’s a glut of food blogs on the ‘net, have you noticed? I’ve been trolling for some new inspiration, awesome lurk-worthy sites that are an instant source of excitement, chock full of recipes that I can’t wait to make.

I found myself gasping at what was in front of me; I was a bit taken aback, like thinking I fell into another era. The posts talked about mac and cheese, baked potatoes covered with canned soup, casseroles with frozen vegetables and potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches with perfect squares of fake cheese…..and please excuse me for sounding snobbish as I certainly know I do right about now…. but this is the food that Jamie and I joke and laugh about, the stuff we were forced to eat coming of age in the 1970′s from mothers who only knew about Betty Crocker and The Joy of Cooking.  This is not, in all our 2009 understanding about our food, our health, the way we can nurture and protect ourselves from the plate up; this is not food. I’m sorry. Forgive the mini-rant, it’s done now.

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It gets better….I promise-  read on…….

Come in to my kitchen…