Tags: Farro

New Edition Pasta Salad

Whether on the beach or in the park, no picnic or barbeque menu would be complete without the ubiquitous pasta salad.  Let us pause here for just a moment- I want you to close your eyes and envision the pasta salad.  Overcooked elbow or shell shaped pasta, smothered in what is sure to become warm slippery mayo, studded with bits of bell pepper and onion that at one time may have been crisp but are now slightly softened by the heat of the sun.  For decades this salad held a place and the end of the summer BBQ table, next to a pile of hot dogs and hamburgers, atop a red and white checkered table cloth, and for just as long we have all spooned servings of the dish onto a paper plate only to push it away from our seeded buns and eventually toss it in the garbage.  The pasta salad, as just described in extreme detail above, has seen its end.   If you need I will give you a moment to say your goodbyes….

I promise there will be no separation anxiety upon this introduction to a new, lighter, more flavorful edition as seen in the recipe below.   I hope you enjoy.

New Edition Pasta Salad

1 pound farro
1 pound baby spinach
2 cans UN marinated artichoke hearts rinsed (you can also used frozen just make sure to properly thaw)
1 clove garlic
Juice and zest of two small lemons or 1 large lemon
8 fresh basil leaves
4 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used Locatelli, because I always use Locatelli)
1 tablespoon salt
7-10 turns of fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preparation:

Rinse the farro in a colander with several washes of water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous amount of sea salt.  Add the farro to the boiling water and cook for aproximately 15 minutes or until tender, but still al dente.

In a food processor or blender add the artichoke hearts, basil, mint, walnuts, Locatelli, garlic clove, salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice.  Slowly pour in the olive oil and pulse until all ingredients are pureed.

Gently tear the spinach leaves into a large salad bowl, add the cooked farro and stir lightly to wilt the leaves.  Add the artichoke puree and combine well.  Season with any additional salt and pepper at this time.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Cooking from the Gut

When my Brother, Drew returned from his honeymoon on the Amalfi coast a little over a month ago I interrogated him with questions pertaining to one thing and one thing only, food. “What did you eat!?” He was exceedingly patient with me while I made him describe every morsel, meal and snack starting from the first day of his trip and ending in the Roman airport where he claims to have had a wonderful glass of wine and the best lasagna he ever tasted.  Lucky for me my brother loves food as much as I do.

Many of the plates he described had an air of familiarity but one seemed to tickle my culinary interest in particular, pasta with fava beans, spring peas, a bit of mint and ginger. Ginger?!!? I couldn’t even imagine it- Drew went on to explain that according to the matrie d’,  this recipe dates back to 1890, that’s over a century of innovation, brought upon of course by many centuries of trade. I suddenly got the feeling that I was cooking too much inside the lines.

Sometimes in the kitchen dishes must be prepared from the “gut”. This is especially true when you are making something you have never tasted, read a recipe for, or even seen a picture of. Having never seen or tasted this pasta for myself, I was forced to imagine it, texture and flavor. I gathered ingredients from the market and pantry and begin cooking right from my gut. The result was a delicate and aromatic pasta dish, which I am sure I will make again and again.

Farro Pasta with Mint Gingered Pea Pesto and Fava 

Ingredients: 

1 pound tagliatelle di farro-

*use you certainly use a plain pasta here, but the taste of the farro held up really well against the sauce*

3 cloves garlic
1 pound fresh peas
1 pound fresh shelled fava beans
6 mint leaves
1 cup basil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
¼ cup grated ricotta salata plus more for grating
½ cup of locatelli romano cheese
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cups organic chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
8 grape tomatoes diced
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste

 Preparation:

First things first boil the peas in salted water for about five minutes drain and set aside and allow cooling.

In a food processor add one clove of garlic, the basil, mint, cheeses, ginger, cooled peas, salt and pepper.  Pulse while drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil until a coarse paste emerges.

In a medium to large sauté pan (big enough to toss your pasta in!) gently soften the remaining garlic.  Add the shelled and rinsed fava beans and sauté on medium heat for five minutes or until the skin of the fava beans begins to pucker slightly.  Add the pea pesto and stir to combine; the sauce will be very thick at this point.  Next pour in the broth season with salt and pepper and simmer for ten minutes while the pasta cooks.  (Cook pasta according to package directions and be sure to use plenty of sea salt in that water!) Toss the pasta into the sauce adding the tomatoes and the additional grated ricotta salata.  Serve immediately and enjoy.

Broccoli Soup

At the start of writing this blog my Mother kept hounding me to include the “broccoli Soup” recipe.

“What broccoli soup?”

“Your Grandmother made broccoli soup every week! don’t you remember that?!”

The truth was I did not.  I had no recollection of the dish, and having been very careful to file away so many of Vincenza’s recipes in my mind I was suspect, but didn’t want to come right out and tell my sweet Mother that she was losing her mind. (A thought I would later have to recant)

I did some minor research and found a myriad of Sicilian broccoli soup recipes in exsistence.  It’s possible Vinnie could have whippped this dish up.  It certainly fit into her budget friendly menu,  a soup that could be stretched with the addition of broken pieces of cappelinni perhaps?  That did sound familiar…

I made my version by sauteeing garlic and onions until tender but not browned, then added the broccoli and organic chicken stock.  The entire dish took five-seven minutes of “active” preperation.  I boiled some farro for a more sustaining accompaniment and topped the soup with freshly grated Locatelli.

Mom sat across from me at the table.  ”Smells good!” she said with a wink.  In unison we pooled the green soup onto a spoon, gave a gentle blow of cool air from our mouths and sipped a taste.  ”I remember this!” I exclaimed, She just laughed.  Apparently the taste buds remember what the mind does not.

Broccoli Soup

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves
1 medium yellow onion
2 heads of fresh broccoli chopped into pieces
pinch red pepper flakes
6 cups of organic free range chicken broth
3 cups cooked farro * see note
salt and pepper to taste
grated Locatelli cheese

Directions: 

In a medium to large pot saute the onions in 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, add the garlic and stir until soften but not brown.  Add the chopped broccoli and red pepper flakes.  Pour the stock over all ingredients and simmer for twenty minutes. Combine soup with desired amount of farro and top with grated cheese.

*Farro is a fairly new ingredient in my kitchen, which is ironic considering it is noted to be one of the oldest grains in the world.  Said to sustain the Roman Legions! Good enough for me.  I am sure there are farro experts out there who can tell you exactly how this delightfully nutty grain should be cooked…I am not that expert.  I usually cook my farro by the same technique I use to boil pasta…twice the water with a generous dose of sea salt until al dente.