Here’s an easy way to eat healthy. If you have your pantry stocked with interesting market grains like quinoa, farro, red or black rice, even brown rice, you can easily make a healthy meal with seasonal vegetables from the market.
Lately I’ve been loving farro. Farro is one of the oldest wheat grains with a history that goes back to Roman times. It’s still widely eaten in Italy and is now becoming popular here. Not only is it earthy, sweet, chewy, and nutty, it’s very nutritious. Farro is protein-rich, high in B-complex vitamins and low in gluten so it’s good for people who are wheat intolerant.
Some people will say that farro is just a trendier spelt. While it is a close cousin to spelt, they are entirely different grains. Here’s a recipe for warm farro salad with my seasonal market finds. Vary the grains and the salad ingredients with the season. Think how good this would be in summer with halved cherry tomatoes, basil, and soft goat cheese. Farro can also be treated like risotto or cooked into soups like you would barley.
Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Squash, Oyster Mushrooms & Chard
– 1 1/2 cups farro, soaked to cover in cold water for 6 hours or overnight (optional, simply rinse if you haven’t soaked it)
– 6 cups cold water
– 1 medium Delicata squash, peeled and diced small (about 1 3/4 cups)
– 1 bunch green chard
– 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
– 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
– 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/4 cup chopped parsley
– Salt (both for boiling and taste)
– Pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Drain soaked farro and place in a medium saucepan with the 6 cups of cold water and a little salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until tender. The farro will take longer to cook if you haven’t soaked it. Plan for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, ready all other ingredients. The flavor of this salad is better when it is tossed with the dressing while the farro is still warm.
Toss the squash cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and coarse salt and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer. Roast the squash for about 12-15 minutes until brown, caramelized, and tender, stopping once halfway through to slide a spatula under the squash and flip it gently and rotate the baking sheet so the squash cooks evenly.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Strip the chard leaves from the stems and wash them. Cut the chard into 1/2 inch thick ribbons. Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water and drop the chard in. cook for about 30 seconds and drain. Squeeze out excess water as soon as the chard is cool enough to handle.
In a medium heavy skillet, over medium high heat, warm the other tablespoon of olive oil. Add the oyster mushrooms and a little salt and stir once. Let the mushrooms sizzle, without stirring until they release their liquid and begin to brown. Stir again and add about 1 tablespoon water or white wine if you have it handy to deglaze the pan. Set aside
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and shallots. In a steady, slow stream, whisk in the olive oil until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drain the cooked farro and transfer it to a serving bowl along with the cooked squash, chard, and mushrooms. Pour the dressing over and toss.
Note: Recipe Copyright Vanessa Barrington 2008
Image: David Dennis