Hello! I am so excited to be posting my first recipe for 2018.
Sharing recipes with my readers brings me tons of joy, but sadly my blog has been taking a back seat to work, school, travel, etc.
Setting goals is something that I do for myself all year long.
When the calendar goes from one year to the next, it is popular to say “New Year, new me.” While that can feel lofty or dramatic, I find value in that January feeling to take some inventory of life and see where there is room for positive change and improvement. Usually, the list is health related, like, “OK, I’m going to take my vitamins and supplements EVERY DAY” (instead of for two weeks straight and then forgetting about them for the next two months).
Connecting with you guys and sharing my plant-based recipes was also on my list. So, to kick off my 2018 blog posts, I thought I would share this amazing dish that I created out of food that was in my fridge that had to be used ASAP.
Some of my favorite recipes come from those moments.
My friends say that those are sometimes my best meals. Maybe it’s because I hear Ted Allen, the host of Chopped, in my head as I figure out how to plate something delicious out of the random basket that is my refrigerator, or maybe it’s because it allows me to be more creative than usual, but it also feels good to make something tasty out of what I can find.
If you know me but at all, you know that I think pesto is the besto.
The recipe for this sauce that I share with you guys on my website is the one that I grew up on
and was created by my momma. People have told her that she should jar it up and sell it because it’s so good. Making it from scratch with impress yours and your loved ones taste buds.
Usually, I have batches of this green gold in my fridge that I made over the summer with fresh basil from my dad’s garden. I am running really low though, so I decided to use the rest of the basil in my fridge that felt like a ticking time bomb- ready to turn black at any given moment. I HATE when that happens! Whenever I am stomping and yelling “NO!” in front of my open refrigerator, the hubster figures it’s most likely because the basil turned bad on a dime.
I love this dish.
It’s warm, fresh, loaded with plants, and answers the question that I so often get which is “how do I cook with farro?” This is a perfect weeknight meal. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini
Author: Michele Wolfson
- 6 TBS extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 zucchini, thinly sliced half moons
- 1 smallish Italian eggplant (about 6 inches), diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 cups farro, uncooked
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- salt and pepper to taste
- Recipe for pesto sauce: http://www.thedirtonvegetables.com/2014/07/basil-pesto-sauce/
- Cook farro according to package (see notes) and then prepare your pesto sauce.
- In a large saute pan, heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium/high heat. Then add diced onion and saute until translucent (3-5 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the eggplant and 3 TBS of olive oil and toss around, making sure it is covered with oil, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Put zucchini in the pan with eggplant mixture, add the last tablespoon of olive oil, and saute until eggplant is slightly browning and zucchini is soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- When finished cooking, drain farro and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Put your vegetables in the mixing bowl with farro and toss well.
- Add your pesto to the mixing bowl and continue to toss well until all of your vegetables are covered.
1. If there is just no time in your week to make pesto (it's pretty easy to make, but stuff happens, so don't beat yourself up over it too much), I have heard that Whole Foods makes a good fresh pesto.
2. If you can't find pine nuts that are toasted, I toast my pine nuts on parchment paper in the oven for 375 for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing often. OR, I toast them in a dry skillet for 3 minutes over medium heat, tossing often.
3. Whole Foods and Trader Joes have bags of 10-minute farro if you are looking to make this a quick weeknight dinner.
4. I buy the "Italian Eggplant" as they tend to be smaller and firmer.
The first time I pitched this dish to one of my clients and told her that she and her family would fall in love with a steaming dish of farro in a fresh tomato sauce she looked at me and simply asked, “farro? Really? You’re going to use your fresh tomato sauce on FARRO?”
As I picked fresh tomatoes from my garden with my cousins over Labor Day Weekend, I knew I had to make this dish for my family that day. I told them of my plan, and right away someone responded, making eye contact with the juicy red tomatoes, “maybe wait to test this recipe when these are no longer in season and you are recipe testing with canned tomatoes.” I knew that they were being crazy and that it was time to bring this comeback grain back to my dinner table.
As a chef and a food lover, I adore farro for its roasted nutty flavor, delicate chew, and versatility. First of all, I believe that one of the reasons farro has a leg up on most grains is because it’s Italian and has more of a sexiness to it than most of the others (How can farro be sexy? Didn’t I mention that it is Italian?) It is definitely sexier than say… kasha (no disrespect to my fellow Jewish peeps… Jews are sexy too in spite of kasha varnitchkes).
After all, this is the first farro to rule the Jews since Moses led them out of Egypt. Sorry, I tried not to add that but I couldn’t help myself.
So what exactly is farro? According to Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (Ten Speed Press, 2011), by Maria Speck, who writes that the term farro is “commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy: farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt).” With a higher fiber and protein content than wheat that is more commonly used, farro is also especially rich in magnesium and B vitamins. Farro was actually eaten in ancient Roman times and was a grain for the poor. It’s funny that some of the healthiest and most delicious of foods were once only for the peasants.
Farro comes whole/unpearled, prelato, or pearled and also semi-perlato, or semi-pearled, meaning it retains some, but not all of its bran and nutrients. Many recipes call for semi-pearled farro since it eliminates the tedious soaking process and puts your dish on the table a lot faster.
I am urging you to go out and get some locally grown tomatoes while the gettin’ is good, because it won’t be long before that window closes and you’re left with colorless, tasteless, sad tomatoes that you can inconveniently find at your grocery store.
This dish is simple to make and people may think you’re fancy (in a good way) because you made farro instead of typical, run of the mill, pasta. There are so many things you can do to this dish to add your own little twist! You can add a poached egg on top! You can add beans or even peas at the end. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with! This recipe is only slightly tweaked from thesmittenkitchen.com.
Also, a quick shout out to my little brother, Matthew who turns 23 today (and isn’t technically so little as he stands at 6’3” and has a size 15 shoe, but he will always be “little” to me). He is my greatest editor and the best gift my parents could have ever given me. This post is dedicated to you.
“Editor’s note: Thanks, Michele!”
Farro in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Basil & Pecorino Romano
Author: Michele Wolfson
- 2 cups semi-pearled farro + water seasoned with salt (see Note above for farro types)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white or yellow onion thinly sliced (read below in method)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1½ to 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks (read below in method)
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
- Up to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
- Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
- Grated pecorino romano cheese, for serving
- Soak farro for 5-7 minutes in water while you prepare your other ingredients.
- Cut onion in half and then in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Press or mince garlic cloves as well. Quarter tomatoes and then slice each quarter in half.
- Go back to your farro and cook it in a small pot according to package.
- In a large pot add your oil and put heat on medium. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic for one minute and watch so it doesn't brown.
- Add tomatoes and add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and set a timer for 30 minutes. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.
- When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a delicate chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, cook it for 5-7 additional minutes, until farro is more tender. Add farro to the fresh tomato sauce.
- Transfer to a large serving bowl. Scatter with basil and pecorino romano. Enjoy!