Farro Tabbouleh

I needed the perfect potluck dish--something hearty and delicious, able to withstand July heat at mid-day, portable, and plenty. I asked my wise friend what she recommended. She immediately replied, "Farro!"

Farro is one of those interesting bulk grains near the quinoa and teff and amaranth in your local bulk grocery section. It's a kind of wheat. At our food coop, it comes "pearled" (hulled and smoothed out), like barley. I also got the full scoop on what to do with the farro. I'm calling this recipe Farro Tabbouleh.

So you've cooked your farro. To make salad, cut up a red onion or whatever you've got (I used purple scallions), and quick-pickle it by placing it in vinegar. This is red wine vinegar.

Assemble your crunchy summer veg, and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Chopped radish, bell pepper, and cucumber go into the mix.

Since there's always too much zucchini around, I used my zester to create long, finely grated zucchini pieces to add to the mix.

The next Very Important Step is to add herbs. Use whatever is growing nearby (if you can). Here we have parsley, cilantro, and basil. I chopped them up with a mezza luna and threw them into the salad.

Seasonings! Why use salt when you can use Trocomare, aka "herby salt"?! Also I decided to throw in some Za'atar. Hey, farro is apparently from the Middle East.

To complete the dressing, whisk some olive oil into your vinegar pickling mixture. Pour over all and thoroughly incorporate.

Farro tabbouleh seemed like a big hit!

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 T (generous pour) olive oil
  • 3 purple scallions, diced (or 1/2 red onion)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or any) vinegar
  • 2 cups or so of summer vegetables, chopped into bite sized pieces (e.g. bell pepper, radish, cucumber, etc.)
  • grated or "zested" zucchini, as much as you want (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (2 large handfuls), such as parsley, cilantro, basil
  • 1 T za'atar
  • 1 T seasoned salt, such as Trocamare (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt. Add farro. Cook for 40 minutes.
  2. Fluff farro and add olive oil. Stir to incorporate. At this point you can refrigerate the farro until you're ready for the potluck prep.
  3. Make the quick-pickled scallions and set aside.
  4. Stir in chopped vegetables, and zucchini if using. (Go crazy and use other vegetables or additions! Feta! Olives! Capers! Etc!)
  5. Chop and add desired herbs. Put in lots!!
  6. Whisk together your dressing by adding oil to the pickled onion. Mix into salad.
  7. Done! If you're not dining right away, refrigerate until ready.

Have you tried farro before?

THANK YOU Mags for the many farro tips! Far out!

Beloved Botanicals

My favorite flowers are in bloom. I'm so happy!

Living gems with cute parasol leaves. There's nothing like nasturtiums. And you can eat them! (My daughter keeps volunteering to eat these, but I won't let her yet. They're too lovely and cheerful!)

My brain is pretty fried these days from parenting and work and paying bills and generally being a grown-up. But one thing that has always made me happy, and still does, is checking out the amazing plants that happen to be growing where I live. Taking a tour around the garden never fails to cheer me up and get me excited. (And I say "happen to be growing" very seriously. I love weeds just as much as cultivated plants, and am not a great gardener.) I like to get out my Peterson Field Guides and do some on-the-fly plant research. I did it today just before dinner. That's how I roll.

This is purslane, which usually shows up in our herb garden--this is the first time I've seen it in 2012. Yay! Purslane is an edible succulent with cute paddle shaped leaves. I can't wait to sneak some into a salad someday soon.

This is a wild lettuce. My Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants says you can eat the young leaves boiled or raw, but even when young they are a little bitter. What I like about wild lettuce is that it's a monster--this one is almost to the top of a 6-foot fence. The guide says they can reach 15 feet tall. !!!

I decided this was pokeweed, and was very pleased to find I was right. Those whitish flowers will turn to sprays of blue-black berries in the fall. (Mom, these are the things growing by your herb garden.) This is another tall plant.

My beloved mugwort is just starting to bloom, these are her tiny, luminous buds. This is a midsummer bloomer (like St. John's Wort). And another TALL plant--she is already taller than my head and not done yet. I planted her from seed back when we lived somewhere else, and returned to dig up part of the plant for our new home. She is thriving and spreading and I believe has a protective, benevolent influence over the whole property. Big ups to Mme. Mugwort!!

How adorable to find a purple twist of morning glory climbing among the mugwort. I adore this photo. I took it with a phone!!

Do you have strong feelings about weeds? How about Field Guides? I find Field Guides fascinating. They are so organized and full of neat facts and images. I wish more information could be presented this way.

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July, or as I like to say, "Happy half birthday to me!" That half year just flew by. Isn't it strange to have a holiday on a Wednesday? Canada got to have a long weekend with the bank-holiday Monday off, but we'll take any old day off! We've got two Fridays this week!

I am a little overexcited today because I ran the local "Firecracker 4-Miler" first thing in the morning (aka 9:30am). I averaged 8:40 per mile, which is pretty good for me so I'm happy. I surged past someone right at the very end (I found out later he was 13 years old) and then relaxed and chugged water for the next several hours. I chugged water all day yesterday too, come to think of it. I read somewhere that mega-hydrating is helpful for race prep. Drink water until Nature calls to tell you that you have totally had enough.

My major project for this Fourth of July was to try a recipe from Bon Appetit's Summer Grilling 2012 issue. The recipe is Steak Skewers in Scallion Dipping Sauce, and may I say right off the bat that it tasted AMAZING. The recipe is from Zakary Pelaccio, who runs the restaurant Fatty 'Cue. The recipe seems right on Fatty 'Cue target because one of the main ingredients is fat. Then it all gets barbecued.

The idea for these skewers is to use a Malaysian grilling technique of building a "medium fire" that is kept low with minimal flare-ups. Also, use a LOT of fat so that the skewers get basted and succulent as they slowly cook. That's the idea anyway. Here's what really happened...

Taking your recipe with you to the butcher can be immensely helpful. I am a bit shy sometimes, and being able to hand over page 90 of Bon Appetit and explain that I needed "2 lb. tri-tip, top sirloin cap steak, or rib eye, fat cap left on" was great. Because I have no idea what those cuts of meat are. The butcher had both tri-tip and rib eye, and I opted to get some of each--about 1.25 pounds of tri-tip and .80 pounds of rib eye. If you're wondering, the rib eye is the more succulent (and more expensive) cut. The butcher was also super-cool by giving me free veal fat, because none of the steaks there had "fat cap left on." (Maybe Vermonters don't like something called "fat cap.") He went into the back and brought out a bunch of veal fat he had removed the day before, and wrapped it up in a brown paper packet with no price tag. NICE!

The meat gets marinated overnight in an amazing mixture of unsweetened coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, and more. Then you string it onto soaked skewers by alternating meat bits with fat bits. Very promising.

This is the marinade. After putting the meat/fat pieces onto skewers, you take whatever fat is left and render it briefly (heat in pan), then add a mixture of more coconut milk, fish sauce, garlic, & lime juice. This gets basted on every few minutes during the first part of grilling.

We don't have an American grill that you can, like, TURN ON. We have a hibachi. It involves charcoal, and it is very close, fine work. I still haven't gotten the hang of it. Having a charcoal chimney, pictured above, definitely helps. Here, the charcoal is hot and grey on top, so ready to pour into the hibachi and grill. (Somebody please save me if this is the wrong way to use a hibachi!)

Everything is under control here. We are following the rules for when to baste and when to turn the kebabs. Yay!

Things are starting to get a bit hot. I opt for a different kebab orientation. Still pretty much under control. I'm feeling totally Malaysian street style, yo.

Ummmm, those alternate layers of fat went kind of crazy just two inches away from the charcoal. Major flare-ups happening. I am not in control of this grill anymore. May Day! Halp! I removed all the kebabs from the conflagration as quickly as possible.

Here are the rescued skewers, succulently resting on the side of the driveway. To complete cooking, I kept rotating them onto the fire to go for that crispy, carmelized surface that Bon Appetit kept talking about.

Oh my goodness, yum. These skewers were an amazing hit with everybody, and they're going on my permanent grilling success menu (along with Turkey Shawarma). So good! So salty! So subtle! Even though the marinade contained a jalapeƱo, it was no big deal once grilled! (I subbed in the jaly instead of 4 Thai chiles). Note the purple-scallion dipping sauce, which is part 3 of the Bon Appetit recipe. Guess what--it called for fish sauce.

This bottle of fish sauce was full when I started the recipe. Only about 1/3 left.

For dessert, Orange Creamsicle ice cream from David Lebovitz's amazing and exhaustive ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop. Yes, it really was perfect. Orange zest, sugar, orange juice, half&half, sour cream, and more, blended into tangy, popsicle-licious, refreshing scoops. Perfect for a hot, fish-saucey, 4-miler kind of day.

Cold Radish-Feta Salad

I don't know why I feel I must specify this veggie salad is "cold," but that does seem to be a key part of it. Maybe it's July setting in! Cold Radish-Feta Salad could be a great side for Independence Day or any summer do. Happy July!

This recipe was inspired by someone else's contribution to a work potluck. Hers had grape tomatoes in it and probably other things. I fell in love with the chunky dice, the radish crunch, and the FETA-ness of the whole thing. Here's my version.

  • 10 radishes (or so), large dice
  • 1 cucumber, large dice
  • 1/2 kohlrabi, medium dice
  • 2 ounces of feta cheese (somewhat less than a deck of cards in size)
  • your favorite dressing (I made my go-to vinaigrette*)
  • salt to taste (remembering that feta is super-salty)

I have been craving radishes this week. Is that weird?

Add cucumber pieces to radish pieces.

This is chopped kohlrabi, which we think tastes a little of radish, a little of apples.

Feta crumbled everywhere!

I drizzled on several tablespoons of vinaigrette, closed the container, and gave everything a shake.
To make this properly COLD, stick in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

A chilly respite on a summer's day.
I was stunned when my 2 children ate this as part of dinner with no question. They liked it!

Does that other side salad look tasty too? It's my Perfect Coleslaw!
Also eaten with pleasure by my children. Amazing.

* My go-to vinaigrette is: 1 crushed garlic clove, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard, and a very generous shake of Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. Shake vigorously and you're done.

What summer side salads do you like?

Scape-rubbed chicken

Scapes are back in season! Bushels and bushels of them are available at the Brattleboro Farmer's Market and at local farm stands, each one representing a garlic plant that is being persuaded to turn its attention to its root, and forget about the normal flowering thing. These sinuous unopened flowers have coiled their way into my very refrigerator, and it's up to me to figure out what to do with them.

Six years ago I posted a few ideas, and I came up with a tofu-based recipe in 2008. But I wanted something different today, and kid-friendly, so I turned to the "scape pesto" idea. "Pesto" means "paste" in Italian. In Southern France the same thing is called "Pistou." It usually involves basil and olive oil, but one can definitely swap things around.

I put the scapes into the food processor--maybe about 10 scapes here

Add 1/2 cup walnuts

Do a rough chop of scapes  walnuts before adding olive oil

Drizzle in olive oil with the food processor on, maybe 1/2 cup. Think emulsification. Add salt too.

After over a minute of blending and scraping down, things are starting to look more creamy

I slathered a bunch of pesto on the bottom of a baking dish

Three chicken breasts (tenderloins removed) go on top

Cover chicken breasts with more pesto. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes--or more!

This was a hit with kids (the one who eats chicken anyway), so I count it a success. It was a very mild flavor though, tasting as much of walnuts as it did of garlic scapes. Which is fine. If serving to grown-ups though, I might bake it for longer to try to create a pesto crust. I might also add cilantro to the mixture for more of a kick.

You pesto-philes might be asking--where's the cheese? I decided not to add any parmesan to this recipe because I didn't want it to burn as I baked the chicken.
Do you have a great scape recipe? Do you make your own pesto?