Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I couldn’t definitively declare that I liked farro until I successfully prepared it in a context that didn’t involve mushrooms. When this recipe appeared at Smitten Kitchen, it seemed like the perfect opportunity: colorful, summery, bright with tomato and basil, and about as far from earthy brown mushrooms as you can get. As a bonus, it’s a nifty cooking method—just throw the ingredients into a pot and boil for 30 minutes, end of story. I had my doubts that something so easy and breezy could really result in deep and complex flavors, but I was happy to be proven wrong. The onions and tomatoes break down into a savory sauce that makes the farro sing.

The first time, I followed the Smitten Kitchen directions exactly and it was good. Then I spotted another spin on the same dish at The Kitchen Sink Recipes, mostly the same but with the quantities slightly increased (which appealed to me because the original recipe had yielded a slightly awkward three main-dish servings, and especially after discovering that the leftovers tasted even better the next day, I prefer to have at least four) and with arugula instead of basil (which appealed to me because I love arugula and because if I can cram enough vegetables into the main dish I don’t have to bother with making a side salad). I made a few tweaks, upping the garlic and adding back in the basil. Matters were slightly complicated by the fact that I’d accidentally bought Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro, which has already been parboiled and which I feared would become disgustingly mushy if subjected to the 30-minute boil needed to cook off all the liquid the recipe calls for. (Online opinions seem divided on the TJ’s farro, with many loving it but others finding it no match for the regular stuff.) I decided to make the best of it by skipping the presoak and forging ahead as written—and the farro turned out perfectly, just as chewy as ever, so I’m tempted to keep using the TJ’s version, especially since it comes in convenient 1½-cup bags, exactly the quantity needed for this recipe. I served it with a poached egg on top and it was even more heavenly.

This really is a miraculous recipe, a wholesome weeknight meal that coaxes big taste out of simple ingredients. And if you haven’t tried farro before, this may be the way to do it: easy, no fuss, with familiar elements that transform into something even better.

Note, August 2016: I value this as a hearty vegetarian entree, but in an effort to make it more appealing to A, I have tried it with Italian sausage (about 8 ounces, chicken or pork, crumbled and browned in a separate skillet, drained, and added to the farro with the arugula and Parmesan in Step 3) and I gotta say it’s a pretty delicious variation.

3 cups water
1½ cups semi-pearled farro
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced thinly
2 large cloves garlic, halved and sliced thinly
4 cups (2 pints) halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra to taste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to taste
2 cups baby arugula
1 handful basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1. Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak for at least 5-10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. (Skip the soaking if using 10-minute farro.)

2. Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon olive oil to the farro. Bring uncovered pan to a boil. Set a timer for 30 minutes and reduce heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but still a bit chewy) and the liquid should be mostly absorbed.

3. Add the arugula and Parmesan; stir to combine and to wilt the arugula.

4. Transfer to serving bowls, drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and sprinkle with basil and additional Parmesan to taste.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Great; tastes even better the next day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I hope I don’t have to say much to convince you (unless you’re vegan) that crispy breaded chicken topped with ham, cheese, and mustardy, vinegary greens is a Good Thing. This is just the type of straightforward but not dumbed-down weeknight recipe I’m always on the lookout for, and as soon as I came across it at Elly Says Opa, I knew it would be a slam-dunk with both me (quick, easy, vegetable included) and A (two kinds of meat in one dish = score). The pan-fried chicken, creamy cheese, and salty pork veer toward luxurious comfort, and but the fresh, peppery arugula reins it back in. It’s basically a meal in itself, main dish and salad rolled into one, although some roasted potatoes on the side definitely wouldn’t hurt anything.

Apparently the original recipe called for Brie, which I do love, but I second this adaptation’s substitution of Fontina, an equally good melter, less unctuous and with a nice nutty flavor that actually has a bit more character than Brie. I made no real changes except that I’m a bit more generous with the arugula (at least on my own servings…why not fill the plate?) and a bit stingier with the panko. The first time I made th

is, I dutifully filled my shallow bowl with 1 cup panko, breaded my chicken, and still had half of it left, now contaminated with raw chicken juice, that I had to throw away. Now I start with 1 cup panko in the bowl and add more as needed midway through the breading process if the level dips too low.

Both A and I thought that it might make this even better if the prosciutto could be warmed somehow. Next time I might try either crisping it up briefly in a separate dry pan before placing it atop the chicken, or adding it right after the cheese and then moving the whole shebang (in my cast-iron skillet) to the oven for a brief stint under the broiler, which would cook the prosciutto and melt the cheese in one fell swoop (but possibly dry out the chicken?). I’ll keep you posted, but don’t wait that long to make this—no matter what, it’s a keeper.

1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces baby arugula
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 cups panko breadcrumbs (start with 1 and add more as needed)
4 chicken breasts (4-5 ounces apiece), pounded to ¼-inch thickness
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
8 thin slices prosciutto

1. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste together in a large bowl. Slowly add 2 tablespoons olive oil while whisking, and mix until emulsified.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and then add the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. While the pan is heating, place the flour, eggs, and panko in three separate shallow bowls. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on each side.

3. Once the butter is melted and sizzling in the pan, dredge a piece of chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into the egg, letting excess drip off, and then dredge both sides in the panko, being sure to coat the chicken completely. Add to the pan and repeat with remaining chicken.

4. Saute chicken until golden brown on one side and then flip and saute until browned and cooked through. During the last minute, place the Fontina on top of the chicken so it begins to melt.

5. Add the arugula to the bowl with the salad dressing and toss to coat. Plate the chicken and top each piece with two slices of prosciutto and one-fourth of the arugula salad.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Decent; for leftover servings, store the arugula, dressing and chicken separately, assembling only when ready to eat.