A Study In Grains: Maple Glazed Carrots with Farro, Bacon and Cabbage

I am not a fan of grains. There, I said it! Sigh.
Never in my life have I been able to cook wild rice in less than two hours without using at least two liters of water. I’m lucky if I don’t have to scrape blackened, burnt white jasmine rice from the bottom of a pan! I’m often confused by the texture of some grains, are they supposed to be crunchy, fluffy, mushy? I’ve also been a little weary of soaking grains {and beans for that matter} overnight, it just seems like an added, extraneous step.

I also do not like trendy, celebrity grains like quinoa that seem to be on every food magazine cover, boasting their beautifying nutritional benefits and glamorous cooking ease. Just like every other celebrity, they don’t dare disclose all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make that beautiful cover shot. Fully aware of all of the nutritional benefits and “blank canvas” opportunities grains have to offer me, I have essentially eliminated them from my repertoire simply because I cannot cook them. {Sad face}

Enter Farro, the game changer.
Farro is an Italian grain, a berry from Emmer wheat. It had been featured on the heirloom tomato seasonal menu at work with patty pan squash and smoked tomato vinaigrette. It was prepared beautifully al dente, tender and fluffy and absorbed the flavors of its counterparts wonderfully. Fearfully, my interest in grains had been piqued once more. Wanting so badly to replicate the delicious taste and texture of the farro made by skilled chefs, I bought some farro from the bulk section at the local natural food store.
After all of my past failed attempts at cooking grains blindly, I did some research this time. {Trumpets, please} Often times, grains are available at different stages of readiness for purchase. Some producers will pre-cook the grains to speed cooking time and save consumers a step or two. This is the case with farro!

FarroCup

-Whole-grain farro is the healthiest and contains the most fiber, but it takes longer to cook than semi-pearled or pearled farro and can be rougher on sensitive digestive systems. It also has an earthier, nuttier flavor. {soaking whole grains overnight will speed up cooking time}
-Semi-pearled farro cooks in about half the time as whole-grain farro because the bran has been scored, allowing heat to reach the center more quickly. It has less nutrition than whole-grain farro, however.
-Pearled farro has had its bran completely removed. It is the quickest yet least nutritious form to consume. (Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Farro)

Not to let the grains steal the show in this recipe, it does feature beautiful tri-color carrots from Rare Earth. These carrots are amazing! At the farm, Steve and Debra Jo grow the carrots in a perfect mix of sand and soil, right by the pine trees.  I’m convinced the location and soil is a big reason why they taste so amazing and grow so abundantly well.
TIP: Store carrots in sand to keep them fresh for months. That’s right, months.

CarrotsBacon

Ingredients:
For the Carrots
{Adapted from Martha Stewart}
1 LB carrots, greens trimmed but not removed
4 slices of bacon
¼ maple syrup
1tsp thyme leaves or 4-5 of thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
¼ evoo

For the Farro
1 cup Farro {your choice}
1 cup amber ale*
3 cups water*
1 small head of savoy cabbage, sliced
1 leek, white parts sliced
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 small apples, diced
1 tbs butter
evoo
*the ratio of water to beer should be 3:1

Preheat oven to 450º with racks in the lower third of the oven. Line a sheet tray with foil. Cut the carrots into halves, and place onto sheet tray. Lay 4 slices of bacon in between carrots in quarters. Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper over carrots and bacon. Drizzle ¼ maple syrup and evoo over carrots, toss to combine. Pop sheet tray into oven and bake for 20 min, remove and shake carrots to mix. Place into oven for 20 minutes more, until carrots are tender. Discard bacon and thyme sprigs. Set aside.

Render bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Remove bacon once crispy and set onto paper towel, chop. Add 1 TBS butter and leeks to bacon fat and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stir for about 2 minutes. Add farro to pan, stir and toast until light brown, about 6 minutes. Add beer, water and cabbage to pan and bring to light boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer for appropriate time, depending on which type of farro you’re using. About 5 minutes before cooking time is up, add apples and a bit more salt and pepper to the pan, cover and finish cooking. Before plating the dish, add reserved, chopped bacon to farro mixture. Plate the farro on a large serving  dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the carrots right on top of the farro mixture and give them a little evoo love too. Dig in!

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Leafy Green Galette

It’s been a busy 2 weeks since my last post! I’m feeling so much better and have had energy to try out several new recipes from some of my favorite food blogs.  Thanks to assistance from my friend Jon, we cranked out 3 recipes one night last week. We made Blueberry Mojito Popsicles, Okonomiyaki, and this wonderful Leafy Green Gallette. The Okonomiyaki turned out perfectly; they are like egg foo young with less eggs, more cabbage, scallions and shrimp. It’s really a flavorful fried treat, and perfect with all of the cabbage and scallions I’m getting from the farm right now. The Blueberry Mojito popsicles are so good, lots of blueberries with mint and lime and a bit of rum for adult fun.
LeafLove

The greens were pilling up in my fridge once again and I came back to my favorite galette dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen for relief.  I love galettes. They are a completely blank canvas of dough with infinite filling possibilities throughout any season. {See a reoccurring theme here with my blog?} The crust bakes up delicate and flaky, and the filling is topped with a caramelized layer of cheese… Oh My God they are good. In the midst of 3 different things happening in the kitchen, everything was right on track until I made a minor mistake. Minor mistake is usually not a big deal for me; I’m pretty good at damage control and can rebound quickly. With this blog in mind, I will settle for nothing less than perfection Not enough flour on the surface. Dough sticks to parchment and pretty, decorative crust is ruined. Enter panic mode – recipe post is ruined, blog is ruined, forget about it. Sigh.
I may have been a bit more dramatic about it then, looking back now. Me, over-react?! NO…. LESSON: Mistakes in the kitchen happen all the time.  Part of being successful includes making mistakes. Learn from them and move forward.
So, even though my galette didn’t turn out beautifully, it did end up tasting pretty darn good according to Jon (who was sent home with leftovers). Being creative in the kitchen definitely involves risks, and trusting your gut and going with the flow can be really difficult – especially if you’re just trying your hand at cooking, or testing an unfamiliar recipe. This is the fear I’m trying to break you from with this blog. Take the risk, because the reward of success is so much greater than the fear.

FILLINGDoughMix Assemble

For the pastry (from Smitten Kitchen):

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
¼ tsp salt
8 TBS (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
¼ cup plain greek style yogurt (or sour cream)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice water

For the filling:
3 TBS butter
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup kale, stems removed, greens roughly chopped
1 cup swiss chard, stems removed, greens roughly chopped
1 cup swiss chard stalks, diced
1 leek, white part sliced and rinsed
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup peas
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 basil ball (see recipe) or 1 TBS chopped fresh basil and one clove garlic minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided in half
1 egg, whisked

Make dough:

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make Filling:

Melt 2 TBS butter to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and chard stalks to butter and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. The chard will likely turn the leeks pink; it’s no big deal. Add the leafy greens to the pan, and the chicken stock. Cover with a lid and let sit for about 10 minutes until the greens have wilted. Stir in peas. Sauté until all liquid has evaporated. Remove the mixture from the pan, set aside and let cool. Mix the ricotta cheese, basil ball (or fresh basil and minced garlic) and ½ cup parmesan cheese together, set aside.
Flour a large piece of parchment paper, heavily. I mean dust that sucker with no less than a half a cup of flour. You’re going to roll the dough out on the parchment, and transfer to a baking sheet. It’s a whole lot easier than trying to move it without the parchment, trust me – I’ve made that mistake before too. Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape on the parchment paper, until the dough is about 3/5” thick, right between a ¼” and an 1/8”. Transfer the parchment to a baking sheet. Spread the ricotta mixture out in the center of the dough, leaving about 3” all the way around. Then add the green mixture on top of the ricotta. Carefully fold the edges of the crust up and over the toppings. This can get tricky. In some places you’ll need to pinch, overlap or pull the dough to cover all of the edges. It might not all be pretty, but don’t sweat it. Once all of the dough is pulled up and over the topping, use a pastry brush to spread the egg wash to the exposed dough. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top and pop that galette in the oven. 400° for 30-40 min until the crust is golden brown. Let cool before cutting and enjoying!

BaconGalette

Galettes are free form; they work great as circle pies too. This is a galette I made last fall with squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bacon and Gorgonzola cheese. It was crazy good. {The possibilities are ENDLESS}

Savoy Cabbage, Kale and Ginger Soup

So, like I mentioned previously, I’ve been on house arrest with strep throat this week. This being the hottest week of the summer so far, I’m trapped indoors. What 31-year-old gets strep throat in the middle of July? I haven’t had strep in over 20 years (reality check, I’m getting old)! Thank goodness for AC, popsicles, and farm goodness, or I may have just melted completely – mentally and physically. I’m welcoming this quarantine to recharge my batteries, clear my head and focus on a healthier future.

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This week in the farm delivery was a beautiful head of savoy cabbage, one of my favorite varieties of cabbage. It’s sweeter and more flavorful than it’s more sulfuric cousin and it sure is pretty. Along with the savoy was another large bundle of laccinato kale, which I was eager to consume for it’s super food (recharge into superhuman) qualities. I’ve also been reading a lot about the health benefits of the gnarly root ginger, most having to do with anti-inflammatory and gastrointestinal effects. It’s also said to help sore throats. Bring on the ginger!

I was channeling something with Asian flare, a little sesame oil, maybe some cilantro and lime. As crazy as it sounds in this weather, I wanted to make a super food soup, capable of wiping the strep right out of me in one fell swoop. Who wants to eat soup in 95° weather? This girl. Trust me, it’s been a long summer so far, I’ll take all the super food I can get to recharge and charge forward.

squashstewSavoyNKale

Ingredients:
1 small savoy cabbage
1 bunch of kale (any variety will do)
1 large scallion
1 medium zucchini or summer squash
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups water
2 TBS EVOO
1TBS sesame oil
2 TBS roasted peanuts
1 lime, halved and quartered
2 TBS ginger root, grated
salt and pepper to taste 

PREP:
Peel away a layer or two of the savoy cabbage to remove any damaged leaves. Cut the cabbage in half and cut out the core. Slice the half in half and slice into thin strips. Cut out the stem of the kale by folding it in half and cutting along the rib in the middle. Remove the stems from the kale. Slice the kale into thin strips. Cut the greens off of the scallion and save the greens for later. Cut the bulb in half and slice into half moons. Do the same for the zucchini, slice in half lengthwise and then slice about 1/8” thick.

Add evoo and sesame oil to a large straight-sided pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add scallions and zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes. Add cabbage and kale, add salt and pepper to taste, sauté for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add water and chicken stock. Reduce heat and cover with lid, let simmer for about 10 minutes or until kale and cabbage are tender. Turn off heat. Add grated ginger and stir to combine. Ladle soup into bowls and top with sliced green onions, peanuts and lime wedges. Get your super soup on.

 Variations
This would be a great soup to turn the up the heat. Adding chili flake at any point would make spice lovers happy.

Cilantro would make a lovely garnish to this soup (I just used all mine in a fabulous compound butter listed below {scroll}).

Add bacon. I initially cooked up some bacon to sauté the cabbage in, but changed course thinking it might interfere with the Asian flavor. Nope. I crumbled the bacon on top and it was a lovely salty addition. Always use bacon.