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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Radicchio Panzanella from “Eat This Poem”

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“Because when we eat and when we read, we honor what was made for us to consume. We savor every last bite.” -Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem

One of the great gifts of poetry is attention. Have you ever tried to read poetry like prose? It doesn’t work. You scan the lines and end up losing the thread halfway through. No, to read poetry you must slow down. Let the rhythm wash over you. Luxuriate with the feel of the words in your mouth. To understand poetry you have to fall in a little in love with it.

Cooking is the same. There’s a world of difference between cooking pasta and setting a pot of water to boil, adding a steady stream of salt, running your fingers through the pasta before adding it to the roiling water, and testing it until it embodies the perfect marriage of yielding and firm. When it’s done with attention and care,cooking ceases to be a chore and becomes a meditation.

If you care about both food and poetry you’re likely already following Nicole Gulotta’s brilliant site Eat This Poem. And if you’re following Nicole online- and even if you’re not- you need to check out her new book of the same name.

I say this as someone who was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of her  book. When I was taking notes for what to make I filled three pages of a legal pad. I started using symbols to keep everything straight- , a circle for make at work, a star for must-dos, a heart for date night. Her book is filled with simple, good food made with attention.

Nicole’s book is organized not around meals or seasons but by theme. These themes- On Splendor, On Moments in Time, among others- speak to the rhythms of our life. These themes are filled with poems and accompanying recipes. And what poems. I found myself lingering over old favorites from Theodore Roethke, Naomi Shihab Nye, Billy Collins, and Mary Oliver. And I fell for new to me poets like Jehanne Dubrow and Richard Levine (whose enclosed poem, “Believe This”, I emailed to two separate people in with the title OMG OMG. Look it up. Fall in Love.). There is splendor here.

It’s a brilliant idea. And what transforms a brilliant idea into a treasured work is that it works beautifully. The recipes are elegant creations, delicious and creative but written with life in mind. This is a working cookbook that exists in a space that’s been sorely neglected. Nicole is not preaching the gospel of a 30 minute meal. She’s not a chef whose sub-recipes have sub-recipes. Instead she’s an evangelist of the calming, attentive power cooking brings- choosing a peach, chopping parsley, gently cooking garlic until it’s just fragrant. These actions nourish us just as much as what we place in our mouth does, and Nicole appreciates these acts without fetishizing them.

In response to “Tree” by Jane Hirshfield, where Hirshfield speaks of “That great calm being/ This clutter of soup pots and books-” Nicole offers a segment of simple, comforting meals that feed the calm being in us. For this lovely radicchio panzanella found with Hirshfield’s poem radicchio is quickly seared then chopped. It’s then tossed with whole grain croutons, Parmesan cheese, white beans, and a punchy dressing and topped with chives. I was curious but cautious when I saw the recipe- radicchio is famously bitter and can be overwhelming. But I trusted Nicole and recommend you do the same. The heat tames radicchio’s bite enough that it will play nice with the other ingredients. It’s a dish unique enough to stop you in your tracks, but no harder than boiling and tossing pasta. And by the act of making something both commonplace and special you are are practicing the poetry of cooking.

Eat this Poem is released on March 21st and you can find it here. I already have a list of people I’ll be buying it for as gifts. Congratulations Nicole! You’ve created something truly exceptional.

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Radicchio Panzanella

Adapted from Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry by Nicole Gulotta, © 2017 by Nicole Gulotta. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com
Nicole recommends drizzling the radicchio with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper, then searing it in a dry pan. I seared my radicchio in a healthy drizzle of olive oil because I was distracted and not paying close attention. (I am fully aware of this irony.) This meant that the radicchio was a bit more cooked, but was still excellent.

Serves 2-4

4 cups whole grain bread cubes (cut from about 4 slices each an inch thick)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound radicchio (about 2 medium), wilted outer leaves removed and quartered
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans such as cannellini, or one 14.5 ounce can
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
minced chives

For dressing:

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes onto a sheet tray and toast until golden and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, warm a healthy drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the quarters of radicchio in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear until the leaves are soft and just going brown in spots, then turn. Repeat until all sides of the radicchio have been kissed by oil. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop the radicchio. Place in a large bowl and top with the beans, bread, and Parmesan cheese.

To make the dressing, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and honey. Add in the olive oil and whisk while it’s combining. Season to taste with a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper, then pour over the salad and toss well. Top with a flurry both of Parmesan and chives.

 

 

 

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Farro and Lentil Salad with Currant and Pine Nut Relish

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Hi! It’s good to be back.

I wasn’t planning on being gone for so long, but the combination of celebrating Christmas/ being with my family/ having 5 consecutive days off/ turning 27 made me reluctant to open my computer. This past week has been packed full of good things, from a 2 hour game of Clue with my family to late night drinks with friends to finally finishing the book I was reading. I hope that whatever you celebrate, your week has been similarly refreshing.

Two weeks ago I wrote about our date nights. Last week, right before my family came into town, I made a version of this salad for a light, pre-holiday date night dinner. And now I’m here to share it with you. The inspiration for this recipe came from The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin, an inspiration of a chef and owner of one of the restaurants I most fantasize about visiting.

But something happened when I was making this salad- I was reminded of work.

Last year there was a meat pie on my station. It was a relatively straightforward dish- meat, potatoes, gravy, pastry. And making everything from scratch was a 4 day process. Even if the recipe was mine to share, I would only share it with the most ambitious of home cooks. And then only with plenty of caveats. A lot of restaurant recipes are like that. Your eye is towards consistency of result. You’re making a huge amount of food. You’re not shying away from sub recipes. And you’re relying on the person who is making the recipe to know how to adjust it.  That makes following any recipe from a restaurant a slightly fraught proposition. My first few weeks cooking at a restaurant I couldn’t stop asking the most annoying questions- I didn’t understand how restaurant recipes differed from the ones I was used to following.

Aaron and I devoured the salad. It was delicious- hippie chic, if you will. And it’s lovely in an earthy way- blacks and browns and greens. But as tasty as it was, I still had some qualms. There were some steps that made little sense. Goin had you reduce balsamic vinegar by half before you added it to the salad, making it thicker and sweeter, but it was so sweet that I spiked the salad with additional vinegar before serving. Farro and forbidden rice were paired together, and they were delicious, but they were cooked separately with almost the exact same ingredients and very similar cooking times. And despite the gorgeous ingredients- sweet, plump currants, toasted pine nuts, peppery mustard greens, gently cooked onions- the salad tasted little flat. If I had been at work, I would have added more salt, but I was wondering if there was another way to bring that spark in.

While eating it Aaron and I started to make notes on how we would change it. It became pretty clear quite quickly that those changes might make it easier. It might be suitable for the home cook who doesn’t possess an infinite amount of pans, a walk-in full of fresh herbs, and an employee whose job is to wash dishes. I swapped the forbidden rice, which can be difficult to find, in for lentils, which also make the salad more filling. I added capers to the relish. Lentils and farro were cooked in the same pot, with the same aromatics. Sweet balsamic vinegar was changed out for slightly less sweet sherry vinegar. The tartness could sing, and finally the sweetness came from the currants and onions alone. Capers rounded everything out. Mustard greens provided a sharp relief. Aaron told me he liked the second version even more. I agreed. I had to order him to stop eating it so I could save some for work on New Year’s Eve (hello, double).

This complex restaurant dish didn’t magically turn into a 30 minute, 1 bowl meal. It still takes time and a few components. But by my account, I halved the pans used and streamlined the process, turning it from a special occasion meal to a leisurely weeknight dish. And isn’t that what we want from a hippie chic salad?

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Farro and Lentil Salad with Currants and Pine Nut Relish

adapted from The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin

This salad is highly adaptable. If you can’t find mustard greens or Aleppo pepper, I would replace them with kale and red pepper flakes, respectively. This salad makes a great light meal. Goin mentioned pairing this with white fish if you’d like a restaurant quality dish, but I found adding a soft boiled egg to the leftovers is a great way to make it more hearty.

Serves 4-6

Salad:

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 an onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup farro
3/4 cup French green lentils
2 big handfuls of mustard greens, chopped

Relish:

1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 an onion, diced
2 tablespoons drained capers in brine
1 small rosemary stalk
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup sherry vinegear
salt and pepper

In a medium pan over medium heat warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, the bay leaves, the chopped rosemary, the Aleppo pepper, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions have softened and smell incredible, about 8 minutes. Add the farro and lentils, and stir well. Cook, stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes- just long enough so that the farro and lentils start to toast a bit. Add 8 cups of water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until both the farro and lentils are cooked through- about 35 minutes. (I started checking at 20 minutes, then checked every 5 minutes after that.) Drain the farro-lentil mixture, then spread it out on a sheet tray to let it cool and dry. Remove the bay leaves.

While the farro and lentils are cooking, place the pine nuts in a small pan over low heat. Stir often, until the pine nuts start to smell fragrant and take on some color. As soon as they’re golden but not dark, tip the pine nuts into a medium bowl. This will only take a few minutes, so make sure to give the pine nuts your undivided attention- they will burn quickly. Add the dried currants to the same bowl.

In a sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion, the rosemary stalk, the capers, Aleppo pepper, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to color. Add in the sherry vinegar, and immediately turn off the heat- you just want to warm the sherry vinegar through. Pour the whole mixture onto the pine nuts and currents. Remove the rosemary stalk. Let it all sit and infuse together while the farro and lentils cook.

Once everything is ready, warm the last 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. It can be the same one that you cooked the onions and capers in. Add the farro-lentil mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon. You want to stir often enough that you can scrape up the brown bits on the bottom before they burn, but not so often that the farro and lentils can’t crisp up. Once everything is warmed through and crisped (this took me about 5 minutes), add in the mustard greens. Stir them to combine well, and let them wilt down. Once they’ve wilted down, add the pine nut-current-onion mixture and stir well. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

This is one of those rare dishes that’s as good warm as it is at room temperature. And it’s even better after it’s sat a bit, and allowed all the flavors to mingle.

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Fennel, Citrus, and Avocado Salad

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I was saving this recipe for date night. Aaron and I have been doing date night at home a la Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In for the past few months. Almost every week, we set aside some time for just the two of us. A few days before I sit down and figure out the menu. The aim is something elevated. Date night is different than just having dinner, where we’re happy to microwave leftover soup and watch Parks and Recreation for the 20th time.  Last date night I braised a pork shoulder for three hours and we ate it in chilequiles. A few weeks ago we had homemade gnocchi. We use cookbooks and make our meals according to a theme. That night we put on a playlist, Aaron makes drinks, and we set the table with cloth napkins and two forks. There’s usually three courses, and while the food is always good, being together is the aim. It’s my favorite way we date without accidentally spending $100+.

Tonight we going to eat this salad (with tarte flambée and chocolate mousse), but instead we’re getting bánh mìs together then seeing Rogue One with friends. It’s a different plan than the original one, but it should be just as good. So this salad got relegated to lunch, where it’s more than satisfying.

It’s a mix of textures and flavors- crunchy fennel, bright citrus, creamy avocado, briny black olives. It’s a winter salad, bright and clean and perhaps a bit spare. Winter is an underrated time for salads, and I’ll collect all the winter salads I can find. It’s the sort of thing I want to eat with all the holidays coming up, with the booze and sweets and slow braised meat. It’s the lunch I want to eat so I can go crazy with cookies (or tarte flambée and chocolate mousse, as it were) later.

If you’re interested in other date night recipes:

-We devoured this salad with caeco e pepe pasta, and it was bomb
-The first date night we had was this ah-mazing mac and cheese
-One of my favorite date nights was when I made almost an entire chapter from Heidi Swanson’s new book, but the Vaghareli Makai was our favorite
-And not quite date night, but if you saw this and though, “I’d rather have these flavors as a cookie”, Olayia’s got you covered

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Fennel, Citrus, and Avocado Salad

If blood oranges aren’t available to you yet, you could easily substitue another orange, or a different small citrus (like a clementine).

serves 2

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 red grapefruit
1 blood orange
1 navel orange
1 avocado, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
a handful of pitted and halved kalamata olives

to serve
fennel fronds
maldon

First, supreme the citrus. In order to do this, slice off the ends of the grapefruit, then use a sharp knife to cut the skin off of the grapefruit. It should look like the grapefruit in the above photo once you’re done. Once the skin and pith are all cut off, hold the grapefruit in your non dominant hand. Take your knife and make one smooth cut on the right side of a membrane (the white lines that separate the grapefruit into segments). Cut on the left side of the closest membrane, then remove the segment with your knife. Move the loose membrane to the side, then continue cutting the segments free. It’s easiest to push the empty membranes to the side and take hold of them with your fingers. Once all the segments are free, take the membrane and squeeze the juices out into a small bowl. Continue with the other citrus.

Arrange the fennel, the grapefruit, the orange, and the blood orange onto a serving platter. Whisk together the juice and the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Toss the fennel and citrus in the dressing. Top with the avocado and olives, then garnish with fennel fronds and flaked salt.

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Delicata Squash and Kale Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

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I first made this salad for Thanksgiving two years ago. I had seen a delicata squash salad on 101 Cookbooks, and was struck with the idea to adapt the idea a bit. When my mom requested that I make that specific salad for two more parties within a month I scribbled down the recipe and have used the format many times since.

This year Aaron and I are celebrating 4 Thanksgivings- an early Thanksgiving dinner with his parents, a celebratory Thanksgiving celebration with a friend’s family, and two Friendsgivings. Today’s plans include making three different pie crusts, deep cleaning the living room, and debating how many pounds of mashed potatoes is enough for 4 people (I know 2 should be fine, but I’m feeling 5, you know?). This salad’s definitely going to be making an appearance at at least one event.

When I originally developed this recipe I wanted to give this salad a Midwestern feel. When I first started hearing about seasonal eating I was a teenager, and role model of seasonal eating seemed to come only from the South or California. It was both exhilarating and irritating. What was I supposed to eat when I can’t get locally grown oranges in the winter? Now that I’m older and we’ve grown a better network of farmers and distributers the local question is an exciting challenge. As it gets colder I want warming squash and crisp greens that will continue to grow until we hit a deep freeze. I want maple syrup, a product that only comes from cold climates, and strong apple cider vinegar. I want locally made cheese and carefully stored shallots. And no shade meant to the green bean casserole, but using ingredients that are a product of the place I live feels like a more true representation of Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the food that feeds me and the place that produces them. And I am thankful we have a specific time meant to celebrate our food and our home.

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Delicata Squash and Kale Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Delicata squash, if you haven’t seen it, is long and pale gold, with vibrant orange and green stripes. It looks a bit like if a zucchini got a winter makeover, and when it’s roasted it’s mild and nutty and creamy. The skin is edible, which is fortunate because it’s beautiful. Lacinato kale is also known as dinosaur kale (or cavolo nero) because of its bumpy appearance. This will still be delicious with the more common curly kale, but you will want to massage it more aggressively.

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Serves 4-6 as a side

1 cup walnuts
1 delicata squash, halved, seeds removed. and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 shallot, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 large bunch of lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves torn
2 radishes, thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese, for shaving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8 minutes, until the walnuts are golden and rich tasting. Set aside.

Raise the oven temperature to 425. Toss the delicata squash in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon both of salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking tray, making sure the squash has plenty of room. Roast until tender and darkened on one side, 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and shallot with the remaining three tablespoons of olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. The vinaigrette should have enough acid to feel it in the back of your throat.

In a large bowl toss the kale with half of the dressing and massage well. Keep rubbing the kale until it feels softened, and has turned a glossy dark green.

When you’re ready to assemble the salad, add the squash and the radishes to the kale and toss with the rest of the dressing. Transfer the salad to its serving container, and top with the toasted walnuts and shaved parmesan.

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