Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables & Goat Cheese

After a few months of hearty, filling, and warming soups and stews, I’m looking forward to the freshness that Spring ingredients are bringing to the table. Having spotted some farro, I decided to give it a try – a lot nuttier and chewier than rice, farro is also a higher-protein alternative (even to brown rice), that goes along well in an otherwise vegetarian meal. The nuttiness also adds a great texture to the softer, roasted veggies and overall, the dish keeps you feeling full for hours. I found that the salad tasted even better the next day once the dish had time to absorb some of the flavors, so it makes for a great portable and healthy lunch as well. And in my next post, I’ll explore farro’s colder-weather counterpart, wheatberries, which is the star of some great dishes that I’ve now had at Caseus and August in New Haven.

Before cooking this recipe, it is important to keep in mind the kind of farro you’re using. As Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen points out,  “Farro comes whole/unpearled, semi-pearled (semi-perlato) and pearled (perlato); pearling describes how much of the exterior bran is removed, but packages are not always labeled. If your package says it will cook in less than 15 minutes, it’s probably pearled; if it takes around 30 minutes, it’s probably semi-pearled. And if it takes 60 to 80 minutes, it is whole or unpearled.” Just as a reference, I got pearled farro from Trader Joe’s which took between 10-12 minutes to cook.

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables & Goat Cheese

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 and 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 8-10 cremini mushrooms, cut into small chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 cup diced eggplant
  • 2 cups farro
  • 3-4 ounces goat cheese
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used blood orange balsamic vinegar)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini, and onion in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper and lemon pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, and roast for 15 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Cut eggplant into slices. Spread slices onto a paper towel and lightly salt. Let sit for 15 minutes to absorb excess water. Blot dry. Grill them on the electric griddle until slightly browned or roast in a separate pan with the rest of the vegetables.
  4. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the farro. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, season with salt, and add the farro. Cook according to instructions.
  5. Combine the cooked farro and vegetables, then add the goat cheese. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar, seasoning with salt and pepper, and drizzle over the farro mixture.

Liked this dish? Click here for more farro recipes!

Biweekly Food News Roundup

Every now and then I come across some exciting news in the food world that I want to share with people – so I’ve decided to synthesize this and start a bi-monthly/fortnightly round-up of some of the most interesting food news, unusual recipes, and food-related research that I’ve read in the last couple of weeks. Hope you all like it!

PepsiCo announced that Diet Pepsi will no longer contain aspartame starting in August, after consumer surveys found great concern about its negative effects. This is despite the fact that many studies have largely dismissed the link between aspartame and cancer, but like the relationship between economic development and democratization, the jury is still out on the various mechanisms that link aspartame and weight gain. Given the obsession with diet sodas among my academic colleagues, I would not have guessed that sales of low calories drinks have actually dropped 20% in the last 5 years.

James Beard announces its 2015 Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards and one of my favorite food blogs, The Kitchn, won in the General Cookbook category! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, or wait until someone gifts it to me from my wedding registry :)

Have you ever wondered what The White House kitchen looks like? Now get a sneak peek, courtesy of Apartment Therapy. I’m very delighted to discover that I, too, own the same rice cooker as the Obamas! Next step – to obtain a red/maroon stand mixer.

Even though 30% of Americans are trying to be on a gluten-free diet, only 1% actually have Celiac disease. An economist at Yale explains the gluten-free bubble that we’re currently in the midst of, with higher prices leading to higher demand.

Finally, a thought-provoking piece on the relationship between the accessibility of healthy food and structural inequalities in society, and Whole Food’s inability to address these issues in Detroit.

Chocolate Donuts with a Chocolate Glaze

The best donuts I’ve ever had are from The Spudnut Shop in Charlottesville – made with potato flour, the blueberry spudnut is my favorite flavor. Originally started as a franchise in 1940, the parent company is no longer functioning, but a few dozen shops across a few states still remain. And I have the good fortune of eating these spudnuts every Friday now and then, when they are leftover from the American Politics workshop. As I was munching on a spudnut a few weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and buy a donut pan. I am not a huge fan of frying desserts at home – we’ve made beignets in the past, and while they turned out great, I wanted something slightly (well, comparatively!) healthier and decided to bake some donuts. The chocolate donuts by themselves are not too sweet and they are great with a chocolate-glaze that I topped with some toasted almonds and sprinkles.

Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

Recipe adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

Ingredients

For the donuts

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

For the chocolate glaze

  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425. Spray donut pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Add buttermilk. Stir. Add butter and vanilla. Stir.  Add eggs one at a time, stirring in between each egg. Beat until just combined.

4. Fill each donut mold about 2/3 full.

5. Bake for roughly seven minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Chocolate Donuts

6. In a bowl combine chocolate chips, butter and honey. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time until smooth. Do not overcook. When the donuts have cooled a little bit, dip them in the chocolate glaze and top with nuts, sprinkles or other toppings of your preference.

 

Cheddar Biscuits & Pancetta Roasted Root Vegetables

Guest post by Kenneth Lowande

I have found that next to smoking, the most detrimental, habit-forming act a person can do is to memorize a biscuit recipe they like. For that reason, it is with great apprehension that I share the recipe below. At first, roasted root vegetables do not sound like a comfort food. They aren’t, unless you add pancetta (or “salty pork fat”), spice them up with some cayenne, and compliment them with a plate of cheddar biscuits. The cayenne provides just enough “kick” to balance the sweetness of the vegetables, and the cheddar biscuits remind you that there is a loving God. All told, this meal takes about an hour – though if you wanted to skip the veggies and go straight for the biscuits, 30 minutes will suffice.

Cheddar Biscuits

Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients

Pancetta Roasted Root Vegetables:

  • 3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (only use the white parts)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Seasoning salt
  • 4 oz. pancetta

Cheddar Biscuits (makes around 12 biscuits, or 8 large biscuits):

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2+ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp Lawry’s seasoning salt (or sea salt + smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Directions:

veggies

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Add the potatoes and parsnips to roasting pan.  Coat veggies with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with seasoning salt and cayenne as desired. It’s important that the veggies are coated evenly.
  2. Put the parsnips and sweet potatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While they are in the oven, chop the leeks and the garlic and add to a small bowl.
  4. Combine with 1 tbsp olive oil. Add black pepper, cayenne, and seasoning salt to taste. Put the bowl in the refrigerator until later when we add it to the roasting pan. 
  5. Now start prepping the biscuits. Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Combine dry ingredients and cream until you have a moist dough. Be careful not to over-mix.
  7. Distribute the dough into biscuit sized gobs on a greased cookie sheet. Set cookie sheet aside.
  8. After the parsnips and sweet potatoes have cooked for 20+ minutes, pull the roasting pan out of the oven and add the garlic-leeks mixture and pancetta. Distribute evenly in pan and mix to spread seasoning.
  9. Put the pan back in oven. Put biscuits in the oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.
  10. After 15 minutes in the oven, remove the biscuits, sprinkle graded cheese over the tops, return to oven until brown on the edges.

    Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the biscuits and put back in the oven.

    Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the biscuits and put back in the oven.

  11. The biscuits are done when the edges start to barely brown and the veggies are ready when the pancetta gets crispy. And the roasted pancetta root vegetables are ready!
  12. Generally, I let the biscuits set for 3-5 minutes. At this point, they are at the greatest risk of being snatched by a dog who is the devil.

Pasta Fagioli

January’s finally here – which means that two of my favorite shows are back on TV with new seasons – Worst Cooks in America and MasterChef Junior. While one leaves my speechless at the ability of 8-13 year olds  (some of whom can barely look above a prep table without the help of a stool) to whip up delicious, and in some cases, highly technical, restaurant-quality dishes in short periods of time, the other leaves me speechless about how bad some people can actually be at cooking. Watching Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America is a real treat – she is one of my favorite celebrity chefs and there is nothing more entertaining than seeing her trying to teach cooking to someone who only cooks meatloaf in the shape of animals, someone who always burns meats because that means at least it’s cooked, and someone who made a pot roast and ended up….poisoning her dog. Suffice to say, people who are nominated on this show by their friends and family are nominated not just for their lack of cooking skills, but because they have also actually succeeded in making their loved ones fall quite ill with their food.

In between gaping disbelievingly at  one of the episodes this week, I  was reminded that I owned one of Burrell’s cookbooks (Cook Like a Rock Star) and I decided to flip through it to get some ideas for weekly lunches. I settled on pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian dish consisting of pasta and beans – it turned out to be a delicious, filling and an inexpensive and easily portable lunch. This particular version recommended using chives, but in my opinion, they didn’t add much to the dish, so for next time, I will prefer using basil.

Pasta Fagioli

Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star

Directions

  • 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into quarter inch dice
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, mostly pureed with a few chunks (or according to your preference)
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 12 oz ditalini pasta
  • Freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Basil, chopped, for garnishing
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a wide pot and add pancetta. Over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it’s crisp (4-5 minutes).
  • Toss in the onion and season with salt, red pepper, oregano, and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and 1 and 1/4 cup water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes
  • Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.
  • Boil water in a well-salted large pot to cook the ditalini, which should be cooked only two-thirds of the way, being fairly hard in the middle.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and the water to the pot with the tomatoes and beans. Cook until pasta is done, for about another 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
  • Serve sprinkled with Parmesan and chopped basil.

Scallop Crudo

Being vegetarian for the first 22 years of my life, my move towards developing positive feelings for seafood has been slow – the first time I ever had seafood that I loved was in New Orleans, but since then, the movement towards it had been rather stalled, except for trips to Seattle which have always provided me more opportunity to try different kinds of fresh seafood. Watching a kid on Masterchef Junior cook with scallops, and being in Seattle again for Christmas last month, I decided that it was high time that I learnt to make a few seafood dishes.

With most holiday dishes being quite heavy, coupled with my enthusiasm for holiday baking (coming soon!), we decided to have scallop crudo as the appetizer for our Christmas dinner. Compared to other kinds of shellfish, scallops are quite easy to clean, requiring nothing more than a rinse, patting them dry and removing the side-muscle if you find any attached. Light and refreshing, the acidity from the orange juice compliments the heat from the Thai chile in this dish really well, giving it the extra kick that it needs – a dish that would actually be perfect during summer.

Scallop Crudo

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • A dollop of white miso
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced (if unavailable, use red jalapeno)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 pound large sea scallops, side muscle removed, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Sea salt

Directions

  • Whisk orange juice, lemon juice, white miso, oil, ginger, chile, and vinegar in a small bowl.
  • Pour dressing onto 4 large rimmed plates. Arrange scallops over.
  • Garnish with mint and chives. Season lightly with salt.

 

Eggs and Avocados – Part II

The most popular post on my blog till date has been fried egg in an avocado – a simple and quick breakfast that involves baking or frying an egg in an avocado, using the avocado as a vessel, which can be topped with bacon for a salty and crunchy texture atop the nutritional mush that lies beneath. I have to admit that I am surprised that is the most popular recipe, but it got me thinking about the combination of eggs and avocados when I was trying to empty my refrigerator last week and whip up a meal without buying any new groceries. End result – a jalapeno-cheddar toast with a guacamole spread, topped with a fried egg with feta and cilantro.

The crunchiness and heat from the jalapeno-cheddar toast goes really well with the soft texture of the egg and the acidity of the guacamole. Topped off with some salty, crumbly feta and some fresh cilantro, this turned out to be a pretty filling meal. You can fry the egg to your personal preference – I personally like the yolk a little firm, but you can also choose to have the yolk ooze out on to the toast (though it may get soggy faster that way).

Eggs and Avocados

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, to season
  • Black pepper, to season
  • Jalapeno-Cheddar bread, sliced (This is my preferred choice of bread since it goes so well with the guacamole, but if you don’t have this, any kind of bread can be used)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a pan. Crack two eggs in the pan and let them fry.
  • While the eggs are frying, toast the two slices of the bread.
  • Put some guacamole on the toasted slices.
  • When the eggs are fried, put them over the sliced bread and guacamole.
  • Add some crumbled feta and chopped cilantro over the fried eggs.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately so that the toasted bread is still crisp and does not get soggy.

 

Aperol Spritz

A semester of living in Charlottesville is complete and I am looking forward to slowing down from dissertation mode and sitting back and relaxing a bit. I am also thankful to Nora Benedict for introducing me to Aperol, an Italian orange-red liquor often used as an aperitif – it is slightly bitter and has a citrusy flavor.

Though this Aperol Spritz (a spritz is technically a wine-based cocktail made with bitter liquor and a splash of soda) is more of a summer drink, the bright color is perfect for perking up a chilly fall or winter evening as well. It also includes my favorite, Prosecco, which gives it a nice kick of acidity. And for those who prefer more traditional holiday drinks, check out this Eggnog!

Aperol Spritz

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces Prosecco
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • Orange slice
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  • Fill a glass with ice cubes
  • Add Prosecco, followed by Aperol and club soda. Stir.
  • Serve garnished with an orange slice.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Stew

The only silver lining in using up all your kitchen utensils, pots, pans and gadgets to whip up a Thanksgiving meal is discovering kitchen things that you forgot you owned. While putting away some of the bakeware that we used, I came across our slow cooker, not being able to remember the last time we used it. Not wanting to cook again for a few days after Thanksgiving also meant that this slow cooker would provide us an easy, flavorful meal. But looking for inspiration at other food blogs didn’t seem to do the trick – Thanksgiving leftover recipes seem to be the most predominant topic across food blogs for the last week. But for those of who neither have any more leftovers, or are just looking to eat something leaner between Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, this is a flavorful and healthy recipe that does the trick. It can work both with white and brown rice, or with your bread preparation of choice, and takes cares of your lunch for the week. The prep takes around 15 minutes, and then around 8 hours later, you’re all set! I use brown lentils in this recipe, which are little firmer than other kinds of lentils and can thus, withstand 8 hours in the slow cookers without getting mushy. Adjust the time accordingly depending on the kind of lentils you decide to use.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken, cut into small cubes
  • 1 pound brown lentils
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
  • 1/2 tsp chana masala
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lemon juice (of 1/2 a lemon)

Directions

  1. Add all of the ingredients, minus the lemon juice and cilantro to your slow cooker. Mix well, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (If your slow cooker runs hot, you will not need to cook for the full 8-10 hours. If your slow cooker does not run hot, you will probably need to cook for the full 8-10 hours)
  2. Once the soup is done cooking, mix in the fresh lemon juice. Ladle into bowls or serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Slow Cooker Chicken Lentil Soup

 

Now that I’ve rediscovered our slow cooker, I can’t wait to try cooking more things in it! What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?

Pumpkin & Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Pie

As someone who gets annoyed with food trends really fast, I’m surprised at how much my obsession with pumpkins has continued for the third consecutive fall now. Of course, I’m not dropping to the level of adopting this Pumpkin Spice Diet, but I do look forward to the smell of pumpkin wafting through my food and drink – with some of my favorites being pumpkin bread, pumpkin beer and this pumpkin pie (sadly though, pumpkin pies were found to account for only 3% of all orders out of all dishes featuring pumpkin). This is also the third Thanksgiving in a row that I’ve made this pie – the first year I made it with pumpkin and candied yams, the second time around with pumpkin and regular canned yams, and this year, finally, my favorite combination, pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potatoes.

I got the idea of using maple-glazed sweet potatoes when I was walking through Whole Foods. I normally dislike the sickly sweet taste of corn syrup (which is present in candied yams), so the idea of using maple-glazed products appealed to me, especially given that this recipe already uses some maple syrup. So I decided to substitute yams with these maple-glazed sweet potatoes this time around. Before I had even put this pie in the oven, the scent of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup and sweet potatoes was floating through my kitchen, cut through with the sharp taste of ginger. I baked it on a graham cracker crust, and let it set overnight in the refrigerator and we were good to go for Thanksgiving next day!

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

Filling – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 and 1/2 cup maple-glazed mashed sweet potatoes*
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Directions

Click here for directions for Graham Cracker Crust

  1. This recipe needs a 10 inch pie plate. Pre-bake the graham cracker crust for 5-7 minutes at 350 F. Once done, let it cool at room temperature.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
  3. Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl.
  4. Combine pumpkin puree, mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. (Make sure that the filling is not too hot, otherwise your eggs may get scrambled as you are whisking in the cream mixture)
  7. Run mixture through a blender if it does not have a smooth consistency and then transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell.
  8. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes.
  9. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer.
  10. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. (The pie finishes cooking with resident heat; to ensure the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.)

* – Bought from Whole Foods

Besides this pie, it was also my second year of making this spiced pecan pie! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving desserts?

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