celebrating the transition: a meal for summer & fall

Fall has officially arrived in New York. And my heart is torn. I’m happy to leave behind the fabric-stuck-to-my-back sweaty days and dive into scarves and sweaters, quite sad to say goodbye to beach days and be faced with 6pm sunsets. While the prospect of soups and braises excited my culinary mind, I’m not ready to say goodbye to the berries, peaches and tomatoes of summer.

Alas, one can’t stop the course of nature, so the city transitions. One of the most obvious places to view the transition is in my refrigerator. Last week, my CSA still got tomatoes but also an acorn squash; eggplants and many, many apples. Tastes of summer and fall in the same bag. Unsure of what to do with some of the odds and ends of my refrigerator, I decided to let the summer inspiration turn into a fall dish. We all know glorious summer salads – pasta, panzanella, potato, or completely carbohydrate free, the summer is all about heating up the kitchen as little as possible, celebrating what the summer weather brings us in vegetable form. This time around, my brain couldn’t escape the idea of using farro. Farro is my favorite whole grain. I enjoy a spelt berry, love a great quinoa salad, even the old-school classic cous cous. But Italian farro is the perfect combination of hearty, nutty flavor, a tender but chewy bite and a nice balance of fiber and protein.

Otherwise, this recipe is fall-appropriate because it embraces a blazing hot oven. For the most part, I cleaned out my vegetable drawer. You can include any and every vegetable you would like, the only thing I stress upon are the fresh dressings – parsley, green onions, and lemon zest and juice. Don’t let my list scare you, it’s only a loose guideline. [Aside: This is a fun discovery recipe – I found out that roasted radishes are completely different from raw.] So roast up what you have, cook up a new and different grain (which cooks just like pasta, so there’s no concern of water to grain ratio or any of that), and toss it all together with some fresh ingredients.

Season-Straddling Farro Salad

1/2 lb [uncooked] semipearled farro
1/2 butternut squash [cubed]
1/2 tiny acorn squash [cubed]
1 [small] head cauliflower
1 bunch radishes [quartered or cubed]
1 red bell pepper [large dice]
1/2 cup beans of choice
1/3-1/2 bunch parsley
4-6 green onions
1-2 handfuls fresh spinach
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
olive oil
Preheat oven to 450. Let the farro soak in water for at least 10 minutes while you prep your vegetables.
I used separate small pans for each vegetable, and tossed each in olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure to spread the vegetables out in one layer and not overlapped. This helps create browned, crusty vegetables and not steamed, soggy ones.
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Salt the water and add the drained farro. This cooks like pasta, and takes around 20 minutes. (I do a bite taste-test around 15, 20, 25 minutes to see if it’s the tenderness I like.) When done, drain the farro over an empty cup to reserve at least a few tablespoons water.
When it comes to vegetables, I only stirred every 5-10 minutes. I tested and removed each one out separately as I felt they were “done”. At the high heat, all veggies should get a bit browned and deliciously caramelized.
Rough chop the spinach and fine chop the parsley and green onions. Toss all the veggies and farro together, dress with lemon juice and zest, and a few tablespoons vinegar. Add more vinegar, lemon, olive oil to taste. The reserved farro water is used to loosen up the salad if needed. I added no more than 1/4 cup in the end. Wait to salt and pepper the salad after it’s dressed otherwise because the farro water should be salted.
Serve room temperature or warm.

Served with a little brown butter tilapia, it was an impressively healthy and filling lunch.


About nomnivorous

A food enthusiast who cooks, bakes and eats it all... And if it happens to be cute, it's even more likely to be eaten by this nomnivore!
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