Monday, August 05, 2013


There are advantages and disadvantages to being so far behind on this blog. Mostly disadvantages. It bothers me all the time, actually. I can’t help but feel oppressed by a long to-do list, and besides, Bookcook is an important record-keeping method for me, so it’s inconvenient when it’s not up to date. Not to mention that there are things I really, really want to tell you about. (“You” being the whole three or four people who are still bearing with me at this point.) And when I do go to write a post, often it’s been so long since I made the recipe that I can barely remember the details.
But on the plus side, the long lag time does provide perspective. For example, it’s been so many months since I first discovered this recipe that I’ve made it three times already. That means it’s been thoroughly tested and even improved upon for you. I can now confidently attest that it is both dead easy and incredibly delicious—in fact, it’s one of my new favorite recipes. I’m even jumping it ahead in the queue because I’m so excited to share it with you. I may actually be a teeny bit obsessed with it; just typing these words has made me start thinking I need to add it to next week’s menu.
You might recall that my first attempt at farro was in a salad, and I did not like it. Luckily, farro was redeemed for me in this beef and mushroom soup. Since I enjoyed that so much, I thought this salad from Food 52 wouldn’t be too much more of a stretch, and I do think there’s something about the earthiness of farro and mushrooms that makes them go extra well together. They also have a similarly addictive chewy texture here—roasting the mushrooms is a great touch. I actually liked them so much I doubled the quantity from the original recipe and feel it’s just the right balance, about half mushroom and half farro. The salad is studded with little cubes of Parmesan, and while I’d never had that cheese in such big pieces before (pretty much only shredded and shaved), it adds these wonderful pops of salty nuttiness. All this umami is lightened by lemon juice and parsley (my favorite herb to go with mushrooms), making this a great salad for any season. It did seem a little dull and oily the first time I made it, so on the next go-round I decreased the olive oil and amped up the citrus (a 3:1 oil-to-acid ratio? I like it half-and-half, please). The result? Perfection, especially as a weekday lunch.
I struggled with what to serve with this at first—it’s satisfying enough to be a meal but I still feel compelled to accompany a mostly brown dish with something green—until I hit upon the idea of kale salad, another fresh-but-earthy concoction. This one, with walnuts, Pecorino, and lemon, echoes the elements of the farro salad without being repetitive. Together they make the ideal little salad sampler.

1 cup uncooked farro
1 pound cremini mushrooms
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup finely cubed or crumbled Parmesan
¼ cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. While the oven heats, in a medium saucepan, combine the farro and enough cold water to cover it by about an inch. Soak for 20 minutes. Drain well and return the farro to the pan, again covering it with cold water. Add a few generous pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the farro is tender but still has some bite.
  3. While the farro is cooking, wipe and trim the mushrooms and then halve or quarter them, into bite-sized pieces. Arrange them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently to distribute everything; spread the mushrooms out evenly and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until crisp around the edges and cooked through.
  4. When the farro is cooked, drain it well and spread it on a clean baking sheet to cool. Do the same with the mushrooms once they are cooked. When the farro and mushrooms are close to room temperature, or just barely warm, combine them in a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, tossing gently to combine. Then add the Parmesan, parsley and a generous grinding of pepper and fold gently. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve at room temperature.
Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Great.

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