Carrot, Farro, and Kale Salad

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In high school I knew a girl who used to study while watching movies. It seemed like such an efficient system. She got to pair something boring with a reward. I would try to do it myself again and again, only to find I couldn’t focus on either. I was the dork who would listen to Vivaldi instead. I know better now. I know this doesn’t work for me. But I still try sometimes- try to catch up on the TV shows everyone else is already done talking about (The Magicians) or to breeze through a podcast (S-Town) or to re-watch a favorite film (Harry Potter, always). I can listen to music while writing. Sometimes those songs can even contain words.

Creative work needs time and space. This is a lesson I keep forgetting and keep relearning. It doesn’t have to be a lot. When I taught I would bring my laptop to work and write during my lunch break. I wrote a first draft of a novel that way. It was not a great first draft, but I did it by scratching out thirty minutes a day. And yet every time I start a new creative project I freak out because my life doesn’t have space for new work. I don’t have enough time. There’s never enough time. I forget that I’ve always found a way to make time before. And I will again. If not having enough time were enough to stop creativity we as humans would have never made anything.

These past few weeks have been filled. We celebrated Aaron’s birthday (several times over) and his parents came to visit us in Minneapolis. We’ve been eating out a lot recently, which means less time for creation in the kitchen. I just started a new writing project that I’m immensely excited about. It’s a busy season, and I’m still trying make everything fit. I’m trying to adjust without guilt, to figure out a way to be present here as often as I want and to forgive myself if I’m not. Thanks for sticking with me through this season.

As metaphorical seasons change so do actual seasons. Spring is here in the bright, tentative, and cold way I’ve come to know. I love this time of year- when the light stretches and everyone who was hibernating away the winter comes outside again. I’ve seen pictures on Instagram and other blogs of people who live in warmer climates glorying in their bounty of asparagus and rhubarb and ramps and peas. Whenever I see those pictures, particularly of the brilliant pink rhubarb I find myself bursting with envy. Here it’s still root vegetables, hearty greens, and pantry staples with the occasional leek thrown in.

For a hearty but not heavy early Spring salad I roasted carrots and tossed them with cooked farro, shredded kale, and a mustard vinaigrette. I’ve been making a variation of this salad for years this time of year and I always forget how good it is until I make it again. Roasting carrots brings out their sweetness, and shredding the kale helps tame its intensity. I top this salad with white cheddar, sliced radishes, and pepitas, but you could go wild. I’ve added in walnuts, cherry tomatoes, and feta before and that’s a killer variation. One of my absolute favorite things about this salad is how well it sits. I’ve brought it on long bus rides, eaten it at picnics, and toted it to work during Saturday doubles.

What are your favorite meal salads? I hope you love this one.

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Carrot, Farro, and Kale Salad

This is an excellent lunch or potluck salad. It keeps well for days at a time, and tastes best when at room temperature.

Serves 4

3 medium carrots, peeled and quartered then sliced in half inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper
chili flakes
1 cup farro
1 medium bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves cut into thin ribbons

dressing:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard}
salt and pepper to taste

to serve:

radishes, thinly sliced
pepitas
cheddar cheese, cut into matchsticks

Preheat the oven to 400. In a large bowl toss the carrots, olive oil, and a sprinkling each of salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Turn out the carrots onto a baking sheet. Roast the carrots, tossing halfway through, for 20-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile bring a pot of salty water to boil. Add the farro and boil for 15 minutes, until the farro is tender. When the farro is ready, drain the pot.

While both the farro and carrots are cooking, make the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Taste, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl add the shredded kale. Top with the farro and the carrots. Drizzle with the dressing and toss the salad. Top with your desired amount of radish, pepitas, and cheddar cheese. Serve room temperature.

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Radishes on Toast, Three Ways

Radishes

I forget where I first heard of radishes on toast. It may have come from a children’s book, the old fashioned kind where heroic children who say things like “golly” and “shant” cheerfully play in gardens and never miss tea. It may have been from the cookbooks that I rented from the library on a weekly basis, before I ever considered cooking would be a good way to eat all this delicious food. It may have been later, on the internet, where I was exposed for the first time to food writing that treated food as more than a list of components, but a language that we speak. What I do know is that I was in my 20s the first time I ate a radish. And the first time I ate it was on toast.

I had a crush on radishes on toast for a long time before I ever tried one. It seemed intensely elegant, a fancy way that I could eat two of my favorite things, bread and butter, to my heart’s content. It helped that I couldn’t identify exactly what a radish was, besides that it was a vegetable. There are sillier things to crush on, an unknown vegetable on bread, but not many.

When I did try this radish on toast I was a college senior, living with friends in off-campus housing. I had started shopping at our local co-op, and one day picked up radishes, and then a baguette. At home I tore a corner off the baguette, slathered it with butter, and topped with sliced radishes. I soon learned to sprinkle flakey salt on top, and have been eating radishes on toast whenever I can find good baguettes ever since.

Earlier this week Aaron and I went to an excellent local bakery and I picked up a baguette on a whim. I had never had theirs before, but once we were home and had torn off a corner I was smitten. I knew it was time to slice radishes and swipe butter. And so today in celebration of good bread and lovely weather, I offer three variations of radishes on toast- traditional, tweaked, and twisted. They’re all delicious, and all perfectly suited for spring cocktails and starting dinner outside.

Happy Friday.

Radishes on Toast, Three Ways

The quantity of components depend on how many pieces of toast you’d like, how comfortable you are with fat, and how heavily you add your radishes. The process is the same for each toast- Slice the baguette. Slather on the spread. Top with radishes and a flaked salt, like Maldon.

Traditional

Traditional

A tradition for a reason. It’s creamy and smooth, with just the right amount of crunch. The peppery bite of the radishes come through most here, making it the ideal radish toast for the radish lover.

baguette
butter, unsalted and room temperature
radishes
salt, flaked

Tweaked

Tweaked

Elegant and playful, the radish greens give a vegetal edge to the the creamy butter, while the shallots accentuate the bite of the radish.

baguette
butter, compound of radish leaves and shallots (recipe below)
radishes
salt, flaked

Twisted

Twisted

The pickled radishes here have that tart, puckering taste of all good pickles, an edge that is tamed by the smooth, nutty-sweet avocado.

baguette
avocado, smashed
radishes, pickled (recipe below)
salt, flaked

Radish Leaf and Shallot Compound Butter

The process is quite easy for this. Feel free to adjust proportions as you like- the more things stuffed into the butter, the more intense the flavor, the less things, the smoother the texture.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 handful clean radish leaves, finely chopped
1/2 shallot, minced

In a small bowl mix the butter with the radish leaves and shallot until well combined. Wrap in plastic and roll into a log, and refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to use. Be sure to bring to room temperature before trying to spread.

Pickled Radishes

I chose to make a small amount of pickled radishes because pickled radishes, unlike many other quick pickles, have a very short shelf life. The great advantage to pickled radishes is because they’re so thin they pickle very quickly.

4 radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place the radishes into a clean jar. Boil together the vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Pour the vinegar mixture over the radishes and let cool. The pickles can be eaten after hanging out in vinegar for an hour, and will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.

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