Tag Archives: farro

Moving Beyond Meatless Monday and a Mediterranean Farro Bowl

Let me start by saying, I am proud to be a carnivore. As this site attests, meat, in all of its forms is my friend, however, there is more than enough room in that  circle of friends for non-meat members. This site can attest to that as well. I’ve often shared recipes that don’t feature beef, pork or poultry in a starring role. Beans, grains, eggs, and dairy are well represented in the Recipe Archive.  Lately I find myself drawn to more recipes that do not feature meat at all. I have completely embraced “Meatless Monday” and I’m working towards Meatless Wednesday or Thursday on occasion.

Speaking of Meatless Monday…how did we come to call it that? We have to look back to both World Wars when rationing food was the law of the land and Meatless Mondays happened in every home. Entering into the new millennium, the concept was revised to improve people’s eating habits. The story goes that Monday being the first weekday was a time to get back on track after a weekend of indulgence. Think of all those diets we’ve started on Monday morning…it kind of makes sense.

Personally, I’m probably in that camp. I tend to eat more on the weekend and often look upon Monday as a clean slate, but that’s not the only reason. Meatless meals tend to be less expensive and some are downright cheap. Especially when there are beans involved. Mama D does have a “thing ” for beans. Soups and chilies of course, but she’s dipped her toe into the pond that is the veggie burger, just look at the Black Bean and Cannellini Burgers from some time back. Besides being low in fat, high in fiber and full of protein, beans are versatile and dare I say (again) cheap.

So, today’s entry into the Meatless Monday category is a Farro Bowl that has a distinctly Mediterranean flair. Farro of course, comes from Italy and many of the other ingredients originate from not too far away in Greece. It has the bright vegetable colors that are featured in both cuisines and then there are those Chick Peas,  Garbanzos, or Ceci, whatever you choose to call them.IMG_1195

It’s quite an easy dish to prepare. While the farro is cooking, the topping comes together in a skillet. The onions and the squash went in first, followed shortly thereafter by  a little garlic (yes, a little… I know) and the beans. I think that garbanzos taste wonderful when they are cooked to a light golden brown. It gives them a nutty, creamy taste that doesn’t happen with most other beans.IMG_1200As the picture indicates, a good many ingredients came out of jars…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Coarsely chopped, they waited on the sidelines until the time was right.IMG_1202Once the garbanzos and squash were what I considered the perfect color, the rest of the veggies went into the pan.IMG_1205All that was needed now was a little lemon juice, a bit more olive oil, some Italian herb blend and fresh rosemary. The farro created a rich brown bed of grainy goodness (absolutely love this stuff) that cradled the vegetables nobly. Some crumbled feta  sat on top in blinding white splendor. This was truly a meal for the gods…Greek or otherwise.IMG_1213The beauty of this recipe is that is the entry-level to so many other creations. Try it with your favorite veggies and grains; go for a different ethnic flavor; or just give my recipe your own personal spin.

Mediterranean Farro Bowl
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Mediterranean Farro Bowl
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Rinse farro and drain. In a medium pan, combine the farro with 1-1/2 cups stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the farro is as tender as you like. This will take 20 - 30 minutes. While the farro cooks, prepare the vegetables.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squashes and the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes until everything begins to soften and become fragrant.
  3. Add the garbanzos and continue to cook until the beans are beginning to brown. This should take around 5-7 minutes. Make sure you stir often so that they brown evenly.
  4. Add a little of the reserved stock to keep things moving. Add the olives, peppers, and artichokes to the skillet, tossing to combine. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.
  5. Add the lemon juice, herb blend, and rosemary to the skillet and toss one more time and heat another coupe of minutes.
  6. Divide the farro between 2 bowls creating a little well in the middle. Top each bowl with half of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle 1 ounce of the feta on each bowl and serve.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

The best part of this is you don’t have to wait for Monday to make it. You can go Meatless any day of the week…Can you say Meatless Sunday Supper?

Italian Tomato Soup, Literally

I used to come home for lunch when I was in grade school. I couldn’t wait to get in the door and discover what my mom had made for lunch. Sometimes it was a sandwich, but most of the time it was something hot and that hot item was often soup. Tomato was one of my favorites. My mother always used Campbell’s, but made it her own by adding milk instead of water. It changed the color from rose to salmon and it tasted wonderful. Every once in a while she’d stir in some leftover rice and the bowl of goodness became even more comforting. Back then the Grilled Cheese Sandwich of choice was made with Velveeta. Steaming hot tomato soup and a gooey grilled “cheese” sandwich made coming home for lunch extra special. (Disclaimer: Remember, this was the 1950’s. The world of convenience food was in its prime and my mother being a modern, forward thinking woman, embraced it.)

That was then and this is now, as the saying goes. I now know that making  homemade tomato soup is super easy. It just takes tomatoes. either fresh or canned and whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand to sweeten the deal. The time for fresh tomatoes has passed, so this soup started with a large can of tomatoes. These weren’t your basic tomatoes, no sir. These were the veritable Cadillac of tomatoes. These were San Marzano.

2015-08-16-1439737857-6365608-sanmarzano1These heirloom tomatoes originated in a town near Naples were they grew in the rich volcanic soil  surrounding Mount Vesuvius. To be authentic they have to grow in that area. This easily makes a can of them twice the price of the domestic variety, but it is so worth it. The San Marzano is sweet and rich and has low acidity. All of these factors make it a perfect choice for soup.

IMG_0665Mama D’s Trinity (onions, garlic, and olive oil) was the foundation. The trio became a quartet when I added a good dose of Red Pepper Flakes.IMG_0668 Besides the tomatoes I decided to continue the Italian theme by adding some Toasted Farro and Cannellini Beans. Both of these have made appearances here before. Farro actually comes from Italy and the beans’ ancestors came over on the boat, too.

IMG_0779The Trinity sweat with the pepper flakes before the tomatoes went into the pot along with some Chicken Broth. I would have used Vegetable stock, but I didn’t have it on hand. Either one will do the trick. I decided to keep the Italian vibe going and added a bit of Marsala Wine, I let this all simmer together for twenty minutes or so before I took a potato masher to it. This gave it a rustic chunky texture that I found quite enjoyable, but you could use an immersion blender if you want your soup base to be silky smooth.

The cooked farro and the drained beans went in next along with some generous grinds of my McCormick Italian Herb Blend. I let things bubble away a bit more before, in a nod to my Mom, I added some half and half.  The soup was delightful. Just rich enough to be satisfying, but light enough to be guilt free.IMG_0676What’s tomato Soup without Grilled Cheese? Incomplete. My version was more cheese toast than sandwich and featured shredded Asiago.IMG_0673 If I’d had a baguette on hand, I would have definitely used it, but I didn’t so some Italian Bread stepped in. Use whatever cheese you love or have on hand. Just goes to show that anything that works for you, works.IMG_0686

Italian Tomato Soup with Farro and Cannellini Beans
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Tomato Soup with Farro and Cannellini Beans
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Farro
  1. Toast the farro: Rinse 1/2 cup farro and allow to dry. Place the farro in a dry fry pan. Turn heat on stove to medium and toast the farro, stirring frequently until it is golden and fragrantly nutty, 10 -15 minutes
  2. Bring 2 cups of water (or broth) to a boil. Stir in the toasted farro and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, 30 minutes or so. The farro should be chewy but tender. Drain any remaining liquid and set aside.
Soup
  1. Heat a soup pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat with the oil and cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften.
  2. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, Italian Seasoning, and Marsala. Bring up to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. Use a potato masher to create a chunky soup. Hit it with the immersion blender if you want it smooth.
  3. Stir in the farro and beans. Simmer for a little longer; 15 minutes is about right.
  4. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the pesto and croutons if desired.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

Soup season is upon us and there will be more soup adventures as Fall settles into Winter. There is nothing quite like a bowl of warm comforting soup in the Kitchen of Love.

Musings on a Small Kitchen and Dinner in Seven Layers

In less than four weeks we will be moving to our new home. It is a beautiful two bedroom apartment with many amenities. I know that it will be perfect in many ways; location, fitness center, and beautiful grounds. Still, at the back of my mind I keep coming back to that tiny kitchen. I also keep scolding myself for dwelling on it. I spent most of my adult life using a tiny kitchen, and I can say from experience that they are efficient and convenient, even if the last 12 years has altered my perspective.

There is however, a movement afoot, a covert plan of sorts that wants to convince me that small kitchens are a blessing in disguise.  I recently opened a magazine to find a four page spread on the wonders of a kitchen that is no bigger than my future home’s. I’ve also seen respected celebrity chefs extol the virtues of their New York City mini kitchens. It’s enough to make me reevaluate my new Kitchen of Love’s assumed short comings. This may be a case of less is more…

The philosophical debate will be raging in my head for some time, but in the meantime, I’m practicing working in a smaller space. Short of taping off parameters, I’m working on keeping things close at hand and being conscious of using space efficiently, and it’s not so bad…

Fortunately, all of this isn’t interfering with the creative cooking that is happening. There are so many things that are whetting my culinary creative juices. Lightening the pantry (and the freezers), coming up with healthy and tasty dishes for two, and having something interesting to write about, are all contributing to positive production (and thoughts) in Mama D’s Kitchen.

A recent dinner featured a Seven Layer Salad. These have been around in one form or another for years. From the earliest incarnation featuring iceberg lettuce and peas, to recent versions that feature every kind of vegetable imaginable, they have earned a permanent place in many cooks’ arsenals.

I spun this concept ever so slightly by using Farro. I’ve shared the virtues of this grain before, so I’ll spare you the details and get on to the dish. Garbanzo beans, red bell and cubanelle peppers, grape tomatoes, olives and red onion joined in the fun.DIGITAL CAMERATraditionally there are seven distinct layers including the dressing. I wound up with slightly more, but I repeated some ingredients to create an even serving of all the flavors. DIGITAL CAMERAFarro went in first to act as a sponge for the veggies and dressing to come. This was left over from my last farro foray. It emerged unscathed from the freezer and proudly took it’s place in the bowl.DIGITAL CAMERARed bell peppers and garbanzos piled on (in an orderly manner, of course).DIGITAL CAMERARed onions contributed their mild flavor and a welcome pop of color.DIGITAL CAMERAThe cubanelle peppers topped more farro.

DIGITAL CAMERATomatoes and ripe olives were the final ingredients, that is before the balsamic vinaigrette Everything spent a lovely afternoon in the refrigerator before a sprinkle of Italian Cheese Blend added a lacy finishing touch.DIGITAL CAMERAAs always, choose the vegetables that appeal to you. Use rice, pasta or quinoa as your grain or leave the grain out. Whatever you choose you have my blessing. This was a Meatless Monday dinner, but ham, bacon, or cooked chicken could easily provide the protein. I added some grilled sourdough bread mainly because there was some in the refrigerator. I must say it added a nice crunchy accent.

DIGITAL CAMERAThis is almost a unrecipe, but if you like written guidelines, here they are.      

Seven +/- Layer Salad
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Seven +/- Layer Salad
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Light Balsamic Dressing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a deep glass bowl layer the ingredients beginning with the farro. Layer them at your whim, but aim for appealing color combinations. The only sort of rule is to end with the olives and tomatoes, but again that's up to you.
  2. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well until everything has blended together.
  3. Pour the dressing over the layered salad. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.
  4. When ready to serve, top with the shredded cheese. Sprinkle with a few fresh herbs if that tickles your fancy, and serve.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe
                                                                         

One of my favorite sayings these days is: “Embrace the Change.” It’s time to take my own words to heart and embrace my new small kitchen.                                                                                                                                                                Mama D

 

Memories of Julia…Italian Beef Stew

Beef Stew, a quintessential Winter dish, has as many variations as there are cooks. It is a comfort food that can be simple and satisfying or elegant and complex. The process is time-consuming, but the results are worth it.

I have so many memories of my mother’s cooking, but there isn’t a single one of stew. Chicken Cacciatore came closest, but that’s technically braising. My first adventure or memory for that matter, of stew was making Beef Bourguignon after watching Julia Child. I’ve made this recipe for years, but I wanted something different, so I went about putting an Italian spin on things.

Could I be breaking new ground here? Of course not. Stew goes back to ancient times, including the Romans. I did find a traditional recipe for “Peposo” a dish from Florence featuring chunks of beef, lots of black pepper, and red wine. It was invented back in the 14th century by tile makers who put these ingredients into terra-cotta pots and cooked it by the heat of the furnace. My beef stew incorporates Peposo’s ingredients and oh, so much more.DIGITAL CAMERAMy wine of choice was Sangiovese, considered by many to be the King of Italian wine grapes. It’s the principle wine in Chianti. Usually fruity but with noticeable acidity and tannins, It can hold its own in this stew as well as on the table.DIGITAL CAMERA

The beef was Chuck Eye Roast. This is lean and tender as chuck cuts go. The muscles are fairly large and can be cut up without too much difficulty. Read that as those pesky membranes are few and loose enough to be dispatched quickly. Cutting the meat yourself will save you money  and allow you to cut the pieces the size you want. I like to eat my stew with a spoon and/or fork so I opted for one and a half-inch pieces.DIGITAL CAMERA

I used bacon because I like the smokieness of it, but pancetta would work well and probably be more Italian. The bacon provided the fat to brown the meat, done in batches so that they would brown instead of steam.DIGITAL CAMERA

DIGITAL CAMERAThen came the Sofritto. My understanding of Soffrito is that while traditionally it’s the same flavor base as its French cousin, Mirepoix, it can be any combination of aromatics, and since I’m not a fan of celery, I chose to use onions, garlic, and carrots. I chopped up a good size sprig of fresh rosemary, added some fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and rounded out the aromatics with bay leaf and lemon zest.DIGITAL CAMERA

All of this went into the dutch oven now beautifully coated with brown bits. A little tomato paste and more than a little wine to de-glaze the pan and I was well on my way to creating stewing magic.DIGITAL CAMERAThe beef goes back in  along with some beef stock, water and a little more wine if you dare. Bring it up to a simmer, cover it  and pop it in a low oven (325 degrees.) In order to get the meat tender and not over cook the vegetables, let the beef cook for about an hour.DIGITAL CAMERA

When the time was right, I added the vegetables that take the longest to cook. In this case, it was yellow onions, carrots and lots of sliced garlic. I opted to add the cremini mushrooms a little bit later since they cook more quickly.DIGITAL CAMERA

The stew cooked for about two and a half hours. When it came out of the oven, the meat was tender, the vegetables were cooked, but still identifiable, and the sauce was slightly thickened and smelled like heaven. (there are worse things you could  imagine heaven smelling like).

It was now time to guild the lily. I added some sliced Kalamata olives, parsley, and fresh lemon juice. The olives added an interesting taste and texture. The acidity of the lemon juice did wonders for refining the richness of the sauce, and the parsley was pretty. DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s always nice to have some kind of starch to serve with the stew. The sauce is wonderful and it would be a shame to leave it in the bottom of the bowl. I decided to use Farro.

DIGITAL CAMERAThis Italian super grain has a slightly chewy texture and a nutty barley like taste. It cooked quickly and stood up perfectly to the hearty richness of the stew. DIGITAL CAMERA Rosemary, lemon

Some shavings of Pecorino Romano and a dusting of parsley and it was ready to serve. It was wonderful the first time, but the second day it was amazing.

Italian Beef Stew
Print Recipe
An Italian-ized version of classic Beef Stew. Make it your own with wine, vegetable, and aromatics choices.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Italian Beef Stew
Print Recipe
An Italian-ized version of classic Beef Stew. Make it your own with wine, vegetable, and aromatics choices.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Before you begin cooking, put your cooking vessel in the oven. Adjust the rack so that the covered pot will fit and slide in and out easily. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat a 5 -6 quart dutch oven. Add the bacon pieces and cook until the bacon is brown, but not crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Leave the drippings in the pan and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  3. Cut the meat in 1-1/2 inch to 2 inch pieces. Dry on paper towels for at least 10 minutes (this helps the meat brown). Season the meat with salt and pepper just before browning.
  4. Brown the meat in batches turning to brown all sides. Put the browned meat into a bowl. If the pot is becoming dry, add additional olive oil. Set the bowl of browned meat aside.
  5. Add the chopped onions, garlic, and carrots to the pot and begin to cook over medium low heat. Add the bay leaf, rosemary, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and tomato paste. Cook, stirring often for 3 or 4 minutes. Return the bacon to the pot.
  6. Add the cup of red wine and stir to loosen the browned bits and de-glaze the pan. Continue to cook for a few minutes until things are smelling beautiful. Add the beef stock and water, (and a little more wine if you want). Bring the mixture to a boil.
  7. Add the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cook until the mixture returns to a simmer. Once it is gently simmering, cover it and place in the oven. Cook covered for one hour.
  8. Remove the pot from the oven and add the onion wedges and sliced garlic. Mix gently, cover and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mushrooms. Stir to gently combine. Cover and return to the oven.
  10. Check the meat after 45 minutes or so. The meat should be fork tender, but not falling apart. When the meat is perfect, remove the pot from the oven.
  11. Add the lemon juice and olives. Stir to incorporate. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl or ladle into individual dishes. Sprinkle with the parsley.
  12. This can be served as is with crusty bread or on top of your starch of choice; pasta, polenta, farro, etc.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

This was worth the time it took to prepare. I’m afraid Julia’s Beouf  will have to move over, Mama D’s Manzo is joining the club.

A Night in Tuscany

I’ve never been to Italy. Someday (?) I hope to visit. In the meantime, I can experience the flavors of Italy in Mama D’s Kitchen…and her backyard.

The showpiece of the meal was the Il Galletto Al Mattone or Chicken Cooked Under a Brick .That is the literal preparation. Chicken is grilled with a brick on top of it. The brick weighs down the chicken and creates a crisp skin and juicy meat. Usually a whole chicken is prepared, but we did it with bone in chicken breasts.  It was simply seasoned with fresh herb salt(rosemary, sage, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt). Foil wrapped pavers were positioned (with quite a bit of engineering) on the breasts. Visions of my last mammogram came to mind, but I digress. Then the grill and the bricks did the work. 

DIGITAL CAMERA

We had an Italian side dish that actually came from Italy. We had Farro. This is an ancient grain that is grown in Italy and is now being exported to the rest of the world. If oats and barley had a love child the result would taste a lot like Farro, but it would look more like barley. This grain from the wheat family has been a staple of Italian diets  for centuries. While it has gluten the amount is slightly less than its American cousin.

DIGITAL CAMERA

I had been noticing lots of recipes using Farro. The side dishes and salads sounded wonderful, so I set out to find this new old grain. I checked the grain section of every grocery store that I went in to no avail. I turned to the internet and found that Fruitful Yield carried it. They however were sold out…so I asked to be put on a waiting list, for Farro.

I put my dream of a romantic Italian dinner on hold and went to Meijer to do the mundane grocery shopping for the week. As I cruised past the grain section, lo and behold there on the top shelf was a bag of Farro. It was right next to the red quinoa.  I’d be willing to swear that neither were there the week before, but I have no proof. So I bought the Farro and giddily brought it home. A Night in Tuscany was back on the calendar.

So the bricks and grill were cooking the chicken and I was cooking the Farro. Like rice it cooks in water but uncovered. I kicked the cooking liquid up by using chicken stock, garlic and the usual suspects of an Italian herb cabinet. Once it was cooked, I tossed it with chopped plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls, and fresh basil. It was simply dressed with olive oil. I served it at room temperature but I think it would be good warm or cold as well.

DIGITAL CAMERA

No Tuscan dinner would be complete without a Tuscan inspired wine. We had no Brunello, but we had a nice bottle of Sangiovese. Brunello is related to Sangiovese, which is the primary grape  in Chianti. So a California Sangiovese was a poor woman’s choice to grace the Tuscan table.

DIGITAL CAMERA

After diner we enjoyed the early fall evening  with a fire in the pit and a little more wine.   We gazed at the stars, and planned our trip to Tuscany…whenever that may happen.