I always thought farro was pasta. Not sure why. I guess I never really looked it up. Anyway, after seeing a slew of recipes recently with farro, I decided to investigate. It turns out it’s not pasta (although it can be made into pasta)! It’s a type of wheat grain. Apparently it’s tasty and super good for you. I was a bit skeptical.
I’ve made wheat and rye berries in the past in an attempt to vary my grain intake, and I was not impressed. It might be that I didn’t cook them or season them well, but I tried to make a warm salad with wheat berries and it was pretty cardboardy which made the chewiness of the grain bad. The berries just didn’t taste good. I was afraid my farro experience would yield the same result.
I’m happy to report that it wasn’t like that at all. Farro is really good. It has a mild, nutty flavor. Some describe it as a bit sweet. As farro is an Italian grain, I decided to make an Italian inspired meal.
Farro is cooked like a lot of other grains. It’s actually like cooking the whole oats that I posted about a couple of weeks ago. You put a cup of farro and two and a half cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. When it’s boiling, reduce the heat and cover for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
While the farro cooks pan-fry cooked white beans (cannellini) in olive oil until they brown and crisp a bit. When doing this, make sure to have the beans in a single layer on the pan. You want them all to lay flat and be touching the pan. Otherwise they won’t crisp—which you definitely want. Do these in two batches in necessary. Drain on a dish with a paper towel and set aside.
Next to the chard. Wash and prep by cutting into large, about inch long, pieces. Heat olive oil in pan on medium-high heat then add the chard. Sautee for a couple of minutes then add 3 cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt and hot pepper flakes. Cook for a minute longer then cover and lower heat. Cook for a bit more until done—maybe 5 more minutes.
Scoop some farro into a bowl and top with kale and beans. I added a dollop of homemade parsely pesto. Season again at this point if necessary. Done! Easy, kind of simple and healthy dinner.
Oatmeal is my favourite thing to eat in the morning. It’s delicious and always makes me feel good. There are so many varieties you can make so it’s harder to get bored. I didn’t really get into oatmeal until a couple of years ago when I started making it from steel cut oats. The flavour really is strikingly better than just rolled or quick oats. Some people get intimidated at the whole process of cooking oats or think they don’t have enough time but it really can be quite easy and fast—you can check out my method below.
Recently I bought whole oat groats to try out. I hadn’t really ever consciously seen them in a store before coming to Vancouver, but they seem to be quite pervasive here and a friend told me that she usually uses those for her oatmeal and prefers them. Well, no surprise she was right. The consistency of the groat oatmeal is way more interesting. It seems smoother and yet more textured at the same time. I don’t think I’ll switch back. The only downfall is that it takes more time to cook. But like steel cut oatmeal, you can make a big batch of it at the beginning of the week and just reheat it throughout. It keeps really well in the fridge.
The night before, add oats (either groats or steel cut) and water at a 1 to 4 ratio to a pot and bring the oats to a boil, then turn the heat off and let them sit overnight. In the morning cook them by bringing them to a boil again and then reducing the heat so that the oats simmer. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the oats are tender to your liking. Add a bit more water or milk of your choice (I prefer almond milk) if the oats start to stick to the bottom of the pan or if it’s getting too thick and the oats are not done. The whole process should only take about 20 minutes for steel cut oats and about 30-35 for the groats. The oatmeal doesn’t require much supervision. I usually am getting ready to go or doing other things while the oats are cooking. If I have time, when the oats are done I let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes more off the heat so the oatmeal thickens and cools a bit. I like that consistency better but it’s not necessary.
You can add in a variety of different fruits and spices. I love tossing in some fresh minced ginger (about a tbsp, or however much you want) before I bring it to a boil again in the morning and then adding in apple pieces, strawberries, bananas, etc. You can add your toppings at the end or cook some of it with the oats. I like adding some apple pieces while the oats are cooking to infuse the dish with more apple flavour. I try to stay away from sugar in the morning, but some honey or brown sugar goes great, as do nuts or flax seeds. Experiment with it.
I’ve even made a savory oatmeal with green onion, ginger and soy sauce which sounds weird but is delicious (full disclosure the idea comes from Mark Bittman).
Yesterday I made whole groats with bananas, ginger and cinnamon. Check out the recipe below:
Banana Ginger Oatmeal
Prep the oat groats the night before as outlined above using 1/2 cup of oats and 2 cups of water. In the morning add a tbsp of minced ginger and then bring the oats to a boil. When boiling, reduce the heat and add 1/2 a banana thinly sliced. Simmer until oats are tender and liquid has disappeared adding more liquid if necessary (see notes above). When the oatmeal is done, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes. Then add small banana chunks or slices and cinnamon and mix together. Serve warm.
I made this Black Bread from 101 Cookbooks and have been eating it with everything lately. Yesterday for lunch I decided to make vegan reubens. I used store bought tempeh, cabbage pickled overnight (one of my uses for the cabbage I bought a week ago), home made vegan cashew cheese, and homemade vegan mayo. It didn’t take long to put together but that’s because I had all the ingredients pre-made. The vegan mayo is another thing I have been making and eating constantly. It’s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe for vegan mayo using eggplant as a base. It is the best thing you’ve never had. Check out his explanation on how to make vegan mayo using a variety of bases.
Vegan Cashew Cheese Spread
I was perusing the NYTimes Dining and Wine section and came across an article on cabbage by Melissa Clark. I actually like cabbage a lot. It gets a bad rap as a boring vegetable, but done right it can be surprising and delicious. One of cabbage’s major assets is its versatility. It can be eaten in a variety of forms: completely raw or pickled; seared, sauteed, braised, etc. And depending on what you, it will have distinct textures and flavors.
In her article, Clark highlights a problem that I often find with cabbage which is that there’s so much of it. We are used to eating a ton of vegetables at home so I always look at a head of cabbage and think “that’s enough for dinner and leftovers”. When really whatever I’m making only takes about 1/8 to 1/4 of a cabbage (for dinner and leftovers) and I’m stuck with this giant layered hunk of vegetable for the rest of the week that doesn’t fit into my meal plans. I never really get it together to come up with a bunch of cabbage meals, and furthermore selling the idea to my wife that we’re eating cabbage all week would be a challenge. As Clark’s post pointed out though, cabbage actually keeps really well in the fridge, so you can use a bit for one recipe and then use some a couple of days later for another. And because it is so versatile, it really does fit into extremely distinct meals, so it doesn’t have to feel like you’re eating cabbage all week.
So far we’ve consumed two cabbage dinners that have been delicious and are due for our third in the next couple of days. The first dish I made was a variation on one of Clark’s recipes from the article. She made "Pasta With Caramelized Cabbage, Anchovies and Bread Crumbs". I thought ‘caramelized cabbage’ sounded fantastic and was something I’d never tried before (would it actually be sweet?), and I love anchovies, so I went for it. I wasn’t feeling into pasta then and wanted a more complex flavor to match the cabbage mixture. Initially my idea was to serve it over roasted delica squash, but they were all out when I reached the store. Luckily I spotted Japanese yams and picked those up. The sweetness of the yam goes well with the umami, salty flavour of the anchovies. Also yams are packed with more nutrients than pasta, so it was a win!
The dish turned out to be amazing. Caramelized cabbage is delicious. The sweetness is subtle (don’t think caramelized onions).The texture is soft with a bit of crunch. I recommend trying it! The anchovy flavour in this dish is not overwhelming, so if you’re not a huge fan of anchovies don’t worry, it’s purpose here is mostly for the salt and umami. That being said, if you’re wary you can add less anchovies (Clark’s article recommends just 4 anchovy fillets) or if you want to make the dish vegan you can omit them and add capers instead. See my note below.
Here is the recipe I made. The cabbage mixture is very slightly adapted from the NY Times article, but the Japanese yam addition is mine.
TO MAKE VEGAN: omit anchovies and add capers (about 2 Tbsp) and sprinkle nutritional yeast to taste.
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can anchovy fillets coarsely chopped (can add less or omit—see note above)
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs ( I used stale homemade bread, but was lazy and did bigger bread pieces—like for migas, but think it would be great with bread crumbs)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
2 medium/large Japanese yams, chopped into half inch square pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cabbage shredded
Preheat oven to 400 F.
1. Mince two garlic cloves. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook, mashing with a spatula, until they start to dissolve. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant (less than a minute). Stir in the bread crumbs and cook until bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Place on a dish and season with black pepper.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the yams and cook until soft but not quite done. Drain and dry a bit. Oil a baking sheet with olive oil and arrange the yams in a single layer on the sheet. Brush the top of the yams with olive oil and stick in the oven. Roast until yams have developed a nice brown color. The roasting helps add a bit of crunch to the exterior while the middle remains soft after the boiling. I didn’t season these yams because i think they have a lot of flavor on their own and the anchovies add so much salt to the dish that I wanted to balance it out.
3. While the yams cooks, add a thin layer of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and chile and cook about a minute until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Toss in the bread-crumb mixture and heat through. Season with salt and more pepper, if desired. Serve atop the finished yams.
The first time I had these chickpeas was in a salad at Pizzaiolo restaurant in Oakland. They were fantastic: warm, crunchy and rich tasting without being heavy. At first I couldn’t figure out what was different about them. Then it hit me: they had been dredged in flour before being fried, and not just any flour, chickpea flour! Chickpea flour is made of ground chickpeas and is used in a variety of different cuisines. At the time I had been making a lot of socca—a flatbread made of chickpea flour, olive oil, water, and salt (I’ll do a post on it soon!)—and was getting a little obsessed with this flour. So I was extra excited about this dish and knew I had to try it at home. You might be thinking, ‘chickpeas fried in chickpea flour? isn’t that overkill?’ but you would be wrong. These are amazing.
They also turned out to be extremely simple to make. Take a 14 oz can of chickpeas, or about the same amount of home cooked chickpeas and dredge them in the mixture below:
Note: really only the flour and the salt are necessary. I added the paprika and cayenne to suit my own taste. You can swap them out for other spices to match whatever you’re making or leave them out altogether. The smokiness of the paprika I think happens to work really well with the beans.
Heat up a heavy pan with a thin-ish layer of olive oil and when it’s shimmering, shake the beans off a bit and then add then in, in a single layer. Make sure they are not too crowded or they won’t brown nicely—you will probably have to do this in two or three batches. After a couple of minutes turn the chickpeas so they get a nice colour all around. Then place them on a plate with a paper towel to drain. Season again with salt and whatever other spice if necessary. Fry up remaining batches and serve immediately.
I ate these over a kale salad and with a side of brown soda bread I made.
….and some beer, of course!
pizza above: homemade tomato sauce, mushrooms, sunny side up egg cooked on the pizza, topped with hot pepper flakes
Pizza might be my favourite thing to make (and eat!) for a ton of reasons. It’s got a dough component which the bread-making side of me totally loves and the variations are endless! You can make it really traditional, Neapolitan Margherita style; you can add a ton of toppings or hardly any at all; it can be totally vegan. It can also be pretty healthy or totally fatty and indulgent.
What you need is the basics. Good homemade pizza is about good dough, good sauce (if using!), and a pizza stone.
If you don’t have a pizza stone and yet are into (or want to be into) making pizza at home, you should really get one. Even a cheap stone makes a pretty big difference. Also it gives home made bread a great crust. Serious Eats did a cool series of reviews of pizza stones here. Get one!!
For this pizza I used the Peter Reinhart method for pizza dough. 101 cookbooks has a version of the recipe here. I personally use the same method but with 20 oz of flour, 1 tsp of yeast, 0.44 oz of salt, and 14 oz of ice water to start. I use more water while working the dough by hand as the recipe says. I end up with about a 75% hyrdation.
I like the dough better without olive oil—I use some to coat the dough while it’s rising in its container but that’s it. And I try to let it rise in the fridge for 3-5 days in the fridge. When I’m ready to make pizza I take it out 2-3 hours before making my pie, and preheat my oven to 550 F 1 1/2 hours before baking.
My wife almost always makes amazing tomato sauce for our pizza endeavours using her (Italian) grandmother’s recipe. It consists of good quality canned whole, peeled tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, parsley, oregano, hot pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt to taste. She blends the tomatoes a bit before cooking to get a smoother texture
For this pizza I preheated the oven at 550 for 90 minutes and roasted garlic in the oven in the meantime.
Toppings: I pan roasted sliced mushrooms in olive oil and just seasoned them with salt.
Oil: I always brush the dough with olive oil after I stretch it out and right before I put the tomato sauce on, so the sauce doesn’t seep into the raw dough. This time I made a chili, garlic oil hours before and used that to brush the stretched out dough.
Assembly: Chili-garlic oil, sauce, mushrooms. Put it in the oven for about five minutes. Open the oven and carefully add a raw, intact egg—you want it to cook on the pizza. Bake for about 3 more minutes, careful to not overcook the egg. Take the pie out of the oven top with the roasted garlic cloves and sprinkle generously with hot pepper flakes.
To eat, break the yolk and either spread on the other pieces or you can dip all the slices in the yolk as you eat them.
Note: You can add cheese if you want, a grana padano would go nicely I think, but I find that the egg yolk totally adds enough creaminess to the pizza and balances the dish well.
The NY Times recently posted an article on making Bibimbap at home. I looove dolsot bibimbap. It has rice, a ton of vegetables and gochujang which is this fantastic spicy fermented hot pepper paste. Also an egg is often cracked on top of the dish and cooked in with the hot bowl. I love mixing it all together in the stone bowl. I’ve never made it at home because I don’t have the stone pot. I hadn’t really thought about making it anyway until reading this article, but while being different (and probably inauthentic) from what you get at a Korean restaurant, this is a great meal! It does require some veggie and tofu prepping, so be prepared, but otherwise it’s pretty easy to put together and you won’t be sorry you did it.
Bibimbap Recipe: here