Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Food to Go: Farro with Porcini and Arugula
What do you eat when things get busy?
Me, I like hefty salads like lentil, farro, or quinoa. I cook the legumes or grains, and toss them with vegetables, cheese, and a light dressing.
If a crazy week approaches, I make big batches on the weekend and pick at them all week. I add meat, fried egg, more vegetables, or nuts. I warm them up or eat them cold. They are easy to transport, but pretty and substantial enough that if you end up eating a bowl on the couch with a big glass of red wine and the New York Times Magazine, you don't feel deprived.
Lately I've been relying on meals like this to carry me. I'm teaching at Stanford one evening a week, which means I eat an early dinner on a bench, or tucked away in a hidden corner of the library before rushing off to class. It's very collegiate and my packed dinner (tuperware of leftovers, a piece of fruit or lara bar, a Halloween sized Snickers bar) remind me of the days when I was always on the go.
As busy as its been, there's something fun about the newness of the moment. It's autumn; it's back to school time. Last night I spent an hour in the library writing (with a pen! on a yellow pad!) and looking out the window. I saw a handsome guy with a leather portfolio case meet a girl in colored tights and a pea coat by a fountain. I watched them casually start to hold hands, and I watched him turn away ever so slightly as she stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
While strolling to class in the dark people whizzed by me on bikes, hurrying to the dining hall, or home for an extra layer of clothes. The wind tugged at my scarf and a few scattered leaves blew across the path.
I notice that my recent busyness is not only taking me new places, it's leading me to unexpected moments of joy and calm. I'm remembering how much I like teaching. I'm getting big urges to be creative: to observe, write, dig into old books, and look for new stories.
I need reliable food to help fuel these ventures, and this salad does it. I know that many have moved past the season of corn -- in California there's still ears to be found for 25 cents each. Use it fresh or canned if you want or sub in something else: baby tomatoes, roasted eggplant, even shaved brussel sprouts might be good.
The point is, this salad is a winner: easy to make, easy to double, easy to make substitutions, and very easy to munch at for days while life moves around you and your brain works to stretch big thoughts even bigger. Enjoy.
Farro Salad with Porcini and Arugula
From Good Food to Share by Sara-Kate Gillingham-Ryan
The original recipe calls for Israeli couscous, but Sara-Kate suggested substituting farro to make the salad even more wholesome. It's a great evolution from, though I'm sure the couscous would be good too.
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup farro
2 and 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
2 ears corn, husks and silks removed
2 handfuls baby arugula, tough stems removed
1/4 pound smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 Tablespoon champagne vinaigrette
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Put the porcini mushrooms in a small heat proof bowl. In a kettle or saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil over high heat. Pour the boiling water over the mushrooms. Set aside and let steep until the mushrooms are soft and plump, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the farro and toast, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until done -- about 30 minutes for chewy farro or a little longer if you like it softer. Drain excess liquid, if any remains, and transfer farro to a large serving bowl.
Cut the kernels off the ears of the corn and add to the bowl with the farro. Drain the mushrooms and chop into bite-sized pieces before adding to the salad. Add the arugula and cheese.
In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil and champagne vinegar. Pour over the salad and toss until ingredients are well distributed and coated with the dressing. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again gently. Serve right away.
Serves 4-6, easily doubled for a crowd.