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!


-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.


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
*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!



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.


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.


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
1TBS sesame oil
2 TBS roasted peanuts
1 lime, halved and quartered
2 TBS ginger root, grated
salt and pepper to taste 

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.

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.

Frozen Herb Balls

Yep, I went there. Surprised? Let’s face it; no one wants to cook in this heat. Currently it’s 94° and you could literally fry and egg on the blacktop.  Anything frozen in 94° heat sounds good to me. {While battling strep this week I’ve easily put away a dozen popsicles in the last 2 days. Don’t judge.}


This time of year, you have to keep a close eye on prolific herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley or they may just bolt before you get to their delicious greens. Rare Earth loves basil, they love basil more than anyone I know. I easily receive 4-5 pounds of basil throughout the CSA season, and I’m the last one to complain! This week’s pound of basil almost got away from me, but I was able to save it just in the nick of time by making frozen basil balls! Freezing herbs in olive oil and salt is a superb means of preserving the fresh herb flavor for use all year around. Toss those herbed balls into pasta, When the temperature drops to 25° and you’re wearing wool socks, you’ll thank me for this one.


2 cups basil, stems removed (parsley and cilantro also work well for this recipe)
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1tsp Salt
2-3 cloves of garlic

Remove the basil from the stems. Cram the basil leaves into a food processor, and add the evoo. Add salt and garlic and pulse* until a paste forms. Using a cookie dough scoop, portion herb paste onto parchment paper on top of a sheet tray, leaving an inch or so in between scoops. Pop the sheet tray into the freezer for an hour or 2, until frozen, then place frozen basil balls into a zip lock. It’s helpful to label the bag with a date and which herbed balls are inside. You can use the basil balls in infinite recipes all year ‘round. My favorite – tossing an herb ball into a fresh baked bowl of spaghetti squash. The possibilities are endless.


Vocab Lesson!


*Bolting – Bolting is when an herb (or plant) goes to seed after the fruit or vegetable has ripened. With basil plants, a large thick cluster of leaves forms, with small buds in the center. This often changes the taste of the herb or vegetable to an undesirable flavor. By trimming back the herb, the plant is forced to send up new shoots or stems, keeping the plant full and healthy, and the basil a’comin.

{This is what a broccoli plant looks like when it goes to seed}

*Pulse – To pulse a food processor is to push the power button on and off in rapid successions. This causes the contents of the food processor to settle briefly before being mixed again, to create a more even mixture. Using the count of “One-one-thousand” is a good standard count when pulsing.

Caramelized Scallion and Cilantro Compound Butter

Compound butters are a lifesaver. Well not literally, but they are a great way to maintain fresh flavor all year long, and make quick work of large amounts of herbs that need to be used quickly.   The butter is frozen into easily accessible logs.  Butter makes a great canvas. There are so many flavor combinations and never a wrong answer. It’s a great addition to sautéed greens, add to scrambled eggs, toss with pasta, and would be a mighty fine way to finish off a steak while it rests. The only real question is, what can’t you add butter to?
I just love the beautiful scallions from Rare Earth. The contrast of the purple bulbs with bright green stems scream summer flavor.  The combination of caramelized scallions adds a robust flavor and dimension, while the cilantro gives freshness. Summer, butter, love.


1 bunch scallions, about 6 medium (you can use white or purple)
1 bunch cilantro (about 1 cup with stems removed)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Parchment paper and plastic wrap

Remove the furry roots from the scallions, and peel away any outer parts that look wilted or dirty. Cut the green stems off the bulbs of the scallions, and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Chop the green stems, and save about 1 cup. Add evoo and 1TBS butter to a skillet over medium heat, until butter is melted. Add scallions and cook until softened and just slightly caramelized, about 7-10 min. Remove scallions from pan and let cool on a paper towel. Add butter, cilantro, chopped green onions and scallions to a food processor. Process until everything is blended and whipped together. Be careful not to over process the butter or it will break and curdle. This is bad.

Tear a sheet of parchment paper about 18″ long, and layer 2 sheets of plastic wrap on top of it. Slap that butter right on top of the plastic and form it into a long rectangle. The stiffness of the parchment paper will help you form your log. Fold the parchment and plastic over the butter and roll into a log about 2″ in diameter, or like a regular stick of butter. Twist the ends of the plastic to seal the butter, careful to removeany large air pockets. Place in freezer to set and store. When you’re ready to use the compound butter, just slice off what ever amount you need and add it to any dish just as you would regular butter. You’ll never go back to boring old butter ever again, I swear by it.