Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I’ve talked about this before, but one thing I’m still wrestling with—even after 12 years in the food blog game—is the feeling that I need to have a perfectly curated recipe collection with just one ideal example of each type of recipe. (Being an editor, essentially a professional content curator, doesn’t help. It’s a difficult reflex to turn off at the end of the day.) When I see a recipe that looks enticing but has notable similarities to a recipe I already have, I have to resist the urge to click on by. I remind myself that there are only so many ingredients in the world, so there’s bound to be overlap from time to time, trying new recipes is fun and low-stakes, and who cares if my recipe collection is sprawling and inconsistent? Plus, every now and then you find a better roasted chicken or a kickass cauliflower soup that supplants the old one.

Thus, when I saw this pasta salad recipe at Budget Bytes, my first impulse was to pass it over, even though it looked delicious. After all, I already have a favorite pasta salad recipe, and this one was basically Mediterranean pepper salad meets chicken gyros meets tabbouleh anyway. I’m covered! But I still wanted it, so I threw caution to the wind and made it—using farro instead, because I’m trying not to eat pasta every week. And you know what? Despite having very similar ingredients and flavor profile to dishes I’ve already tried, this one is its own thing—and that thing is a fresh, colorful, crunchy, savory, lemon-bright, utterly satisfying main-dish salad, aka everything I want in a summer meal. Even A, not a farro fan, pronounced it “not bad,” which translates into high praise. So lesson learned, I guess? Life is messy and repetitive, but sometimes it brings us good salad.

1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, divided
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup farro
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium Persian cucumbers, diced
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2-4 ounces feta
  1. Remove the zest from the lemon and set it aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a separate bowl. You’ll need at least ¼ cup juice.
  2. Prepare the dressing/marinade by mincing two of the three cloves of garlic and combining them in a small bowl with ¼ cup lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and a pinch of the lemon zest. Whisk these ingredients until well combined.
  3. Place the chicken thighs in a ziplock bag and add half of the dressing, saving the rest to add to the salad later. Mince one more clove of garlic and add it to the chicken and marinade. Squeeze the air out and massage the bag to make sure the thighs are well coated in the marinade. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.
  4. While the chicken is marinating, cook the farro according to the package directions, drain in a colander, and let cool to room temperature.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, add them to the pan, and cook on each side until they are well browned and cooked through (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Once it’s slightly cooled, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Finally, build the salad. Add the cooked and cooled farro to a large bowl. Top with the bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and chopped chicken. Crumble the feta over the top and add a pinch or two of the lemon zest. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Serves: 4-6
Time: 1 hour, plus 30 minutes to 24 hours marinating time
Leftover potential: Great.

Thursday, August 04, 2016


I’m currently having a torrid love affair with rye. This is not a sponsored post, but an awesome artisan flour mill opened in my neighborhood a few years ago, and my friend S gifted me some of their products last Christmas, including a bag of whole rye flour. I immediately started Googling recipes, and it turns out I adore the nutty, malty flavor that rye adds to baked goods. So far I’ve made bread, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies (those last two really deserve posts of their own, but were fortunately/unfortunately devoured before I could snap photos, so gosh darn it, I’ll have to make them again), but the real winner has been these bars from Kim Boyce’s much buzzed-about cookbook Good to the Grain, found via Orangette. I always have jars of old jam under my bed that need using up, so the fact that it uses a whole cup and a half of the stuff is a definite bonus.

Let’s face it: This recipe looks incredibly fussy, especially compared to the much simpler jam bars already in my repertoire. The bottom crust and the top crust are made separately with slightly different ingredients, you have to melt and cool butter twice, the bottom crust needs to be frozen for 30 minutes, and the baking time is astonishingly long—nearly two hours. It’s not something you throw together on the spur of the moment. But I made it on a Friday night, and I was surprised by how non-annoying it actually was. The bottom and top crusts share similar ingredients and are a cinch to mix up; you can make the top one while the bottom one freezes. (Or, as Orangette notes, you can even make this in stages over the course of a few days.) After that it’s mostly hands-off, and you can wander away and watch TV or do yoga or something while it bakes. Most importantly, the result is terrific. They definitely put the “crumble” in crumble bars, and I felt that they benefited from some time in the fridge or freezer to keep them from being a sticky disintegrating mess, but the flavor is so, so good, with the toasty, buttery, salty shortbread balancing out the sweet tartness of the jam. I used berry jams the first time, and am planning a second go-round to use up last year’s cranberry preserves. At the rate I’m going, I’ll need to restock on rye flour before I even get to the rest of the recipes I want to try (shortbread, crackers, more bread)!

Shortbread crust:
65 grams (½ cup) dark rye flour
120 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
50 grams (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 grams (1 cup) rolled oats
32 grams (3 tablespoons) dark brown sugar
52 grams (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) dark rye flour
30 grams (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
38 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
350 ml (1½ cups) jam, preserves, or fruit butter (I had closer to 1¼ cups, and it turned out just fine)
  1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 275 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan (I just used a regular cake pan, lining the bottom with parchment, and it was fine) with butter or cooking spray.
  2. To make the shortbread crust, combine the flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk to mix well. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract, and stir until thoroughly combined. (If the mixture looks dry, use your hands to squeeze and massaged the dough until it comes together.) Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes, while you make the crumble. (If you want to do this step ahead of time, wrap the pan in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge or freezer. If it’s in the fridge, just remember to transfer it to the freezer for 30 minutes before baking.)
  3. While the shortbread is chilling, put all of the crumble ingredients except the melted butter into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the oats are partially ground, about 5 or 10 seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with your hands, squeezing the mixture to create small crumbly bits. Set aside. (If you want to do this step ahead of time, wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Take it out about 30 minutes before using, and if needed, use a fork to break up any giant clumps that have hardened.)
  4. Bake the frozen shortbread until pale brown and firm when touched, about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, and raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  5. To assemble the bars, spread the jam over the shortbread crust, and then top with the crumble, evenly sprinkling it over the surface and squeezing bits of it together to create irregular nubs. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking.
  6. When the pan is cool enough to handle but still warm, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen any jam that may have stuck. Remove the ring if using a springform. Completely (or mostly, anyway) cool the bars in the pan before cutting into wedges.
Serves: About 12 to 16
Time: 3 hours
Leftover potential: Good; I kept mine in the freezer and they lasted for a few weeks.