Thursday, April 23, 2009

Warm Farro with French Lentils, Caramelized Onions, and Feta

What follows is closer to a set of guidelines than it is to a real recipe, so do with it what you will. The most important part is the onions: be sure to take your time with them, and stir them frequently. Make this on a Sunday, or on a weeknight when you have some extra time to cook.

We eat this as a main dish, but it would be a nice side for almost any roasted or grilled meat. It is also delicious - and prettier - with some cooked kale or chard stirred in. Just boil the greens in nicely salted water for about 5 to 7 minutes, until tender but not mushy; then drain them, squeeze all the water out, coarsely chop, and add to the farro mixture.

And about farro: most of what is sold in the U.S. - I’ve found it at Whole Foods and fancy grocery stores, or you can get it from ChefShop - is grown in Italy, but there are also some domestic producers, like Bluebird Grain Farms in Winthrop, Washington. It is usually sold semi-pearled (semiperlato), meaning the some of the bran has been removed. If you buy whole farro, though, it will likely need to soak overnight before cooking - rather than a brief soak for semi-pearled - and will need to cook for 30 to 45 minutes more.

  • 2 medium or large yellow onions
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ¾ cup farro
  • ½ cup French lentils, carefully picked through for pebbles and debris
  • Feta cheese
  • Hot sauce, such as sambal oelek (optional)
  • Lemon (optional)

First, the onions: slice them thinly. When I caramelize onions, I slice mine about ¼-inch thick, and I slice them lengthwise, from top to bottom - going “with the grain,” so to speak - so that they hold their shape. (If this makes no sense, check out the first two minutes of this video, from Fine Cooking. It’s a great demonstration.)

Pour a few glugs of olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet. You want to be generous here, nearly coating the bottom of the skillet. Warm the oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, dump in the onions. They should sizzle. Stir them to coat, and then add a couple of pinches of salt. (Some people say that this causes the onions to fall apart more quickly, but I do it anyway. I like that it causes them to release some water, so that they stay moister, and it seems to make them caramelize more evenly, too.) Reduce the heat to low or medium-low, and continue to cook slowly, stirring occasionally. First, they will soften a bit; then they will go a little golden; and then they will begin to caramelize. It takes a long time to do this properly, so be patient – and stir regularly, especially as they take on color. My last batch of caramelized onions took about an hour and a half. When they’re done, they will have shrunk down in volume by quite a lot, and they should be a deep amber color and almost translucent.

Meanwhile, once you’ve got the onions started, put the farro in a medium bowl, add cold water to cover, and set it aside to soak for 30 minutes. Then drain it, turn it out into a medium saucepan, and add 3 cups of cold water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat and simmer until tender but still a little chewy, about 30 minutes. It’s up to you, really, how “done” you want your farro. At 20 or 25 minutes, mine is usually too tough, but a few minutes later, it’s perfect: no longer a major jaw workout, but still al dente, for lack of a different term. When the farro is ready, drain it, and set aside.

While the farro is cooking, put the lentils into another medium saucepan. Add 3 cups of cold water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat and simmer until tender but not falling apart, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, and rinse briefly under cool water.

By this point, ideally, your onions will be nicely caramelized. Now combine it all – onions, farro, and lentils – in a bowl and stir gently. Taste, and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with feta crumbled on top and, if you like, hot sauce and/or a squeeze of lemon.

Note: Leftovers keep nicely in the fridge. Rewarm slightly before eating.

Yield: 3-4 servings

from Orangette

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Braised White Beans

The garlicky beans, topped off with a mix of herbs, and spooned on toasted Italian bread was amazing. We ate it for dinner with a side of roasted asparagus and it was the perfect light dinner. I also imagine wilting some spinach in the beans would be tasty, or even just eating them in a bowl with a grating of parmesan on top, maybe even browned under the broiler.

  • 2 c. dried cannellini beans (1 lb bag, dried beans)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed with side of knife
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tbs dried herbs de provence

Rinse the beans in a colander and transfer to a bowl. Cover with cold water by at least 2 inches and let soak for at least two hours and up to overnight. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large pot (I used a 4.5 qt dutch oven). Add water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, anywhere between one to two hours (mine took about an hour fifteen). If any foam rises, skim it off. When the beans are tender, turn off heat and add salt. Let the beans sit in their cooking water for 30 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water, and drain the beans. In a large pot (I reused the same one), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and oregano and cook for about three minutes until the garlic softens. Stir in the beans and the cooking water. Simmer gently until the beans achieve a creamy consistency. The recipe said this would take about 4 minutes, but it took about ten to get the consistency I wanted. Remove from heat and pluck out the bay leaf. Stir in the herbs de provence and adjust the seasoning-- I found it needed a good bit more salt. Serve with toast points, in a bowl with fresh breadcrumbs, or parmesan, or in a tupperware container as leftovers the next day that just seem to get better and better. from Il Fornio, adapted from A16: Food and Wine; recipe originally published as part of Gourmet's Cookbook Club.

My Very Favorite Asparagus Vinaigrette

I can think of no more superlative recommendation for this recipe than its title. I’m happy eating it every day of asparagus season, at almost any time of the day or night.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • ½ cup fruity olive oil
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds medium asparagus, trimmed and bottom portion of stalks peeled
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard together in a small bowl. Add the garlic. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then stir in the diced tomato. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let mellow at room temperature at least 30 minutes.

2. Blanch, steam, or microwave the asparagus just until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain. Arrange the hot asparagus on a serving platter and pour the vinaigrette over all. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. The asparagus may be served warm or at room temperature. I often make it about 30 minutes ahead of serving and let it sit while I attend to the rest of my meal.

Polish Easter Cheesecake

The traditional Polish Easter cheesecake is always baked in an oblong pan. It is not too sweet, very lemony, and, I think, absolutely delicious. This is my preferred version.

Yield: Makes 12 to 15 servings.


  • ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts


  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 pound farmer’s or skim ricotta cheese
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tablespoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup light cream

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 13 × 9 inch glass baking dish.

2. Prepare the crust: Place the flour, baking powder, salt, both sugars, and the butter in a food processor and process just until the mixture begins to hold together. Add the walnuts and pulse to combine. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared dish. Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.

3. Prepare the filling: In a large mixing bowl beat together the cream cheese and farmer’s cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Finely grate or chop the zest of the lemons. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and strain. Add the zest and juice to the cheese mixture. Add the flour, vanilla, and light cream and beat until smooth. Pour the filling over the baked crust.

5. Bake the cheesecake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool, then cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours. Cut into squares to serve.

from Cold Weather Cooking

Monday, April 6, 2009

yummy celeriac, apple & fennel bake

  • 1 large celeriac, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1 apple (sharp variety such as Granny Smith), sliced
  • 180ml whipping or double cream
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 125g grated cheese (optional)

Serves: 4

1. Preheat oven to 190C/Gas mark 5 and steam the celeriac and fennel for 5 minutes to soften slightly.

2. Put a layer of celeriac into a buttered gratin dish and season. Then layer the apple slices over the top and sprinkle with salt. Next, spread a layer of fennel on top of the apple.

3. Repeat step 2 with the remaining celeriac, apple and fennel. Season and pour the cream over the bake.

4. Bake for about 35 minutes until soft. If adding cheese, finish the bake off under the grill until the cheese bubbles.

Recipe by Amy Brooks, a box customer from Reading. This 'yummy' bake was the winning recipe of our 2009 recipe competition held at the Field Kitchen in Devon.

Celeriac Gratin

  • 1 medium celeriac, peeled and sliced
  • 6 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 leek or onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic crushed with a teaspoon of salt
  • brown bread crumbs, tossed with a drip of olive oil (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 carton double cream
  • grated cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper

Lay sliced potato and celeriac in a large flat dish, put a little of the salt garlic mix between each slice, pour over cream, grate cheese over and add black pepper.

For a change you can add the crispy topping - best made using onion, wholemeal or seeded bread for the crumbs whizzed in a blender.

Bake at 160 degrees C for a couple of hours under foil and then remove to crisp topping. If your in a hurry you can steam/boil celeriac and spuds first and bake for 1/2 hr in a hotter oven!

(Parsley to garnish)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 thick slices of bacon
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • one orange: half juiced, half sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach leaves

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep them on the pan until ready to use.

2. While the potatoes cook, put the bacon in a nonreactive skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook, turning once or twice, until crisp. Drain on paper towels and pour off the fat, leaving any darkened bits behind in the pan. Put back on medium heat, and add the remaining oil to the pan. When it's hot, add the onion, and ginger to the pan. Cook, stirring once or twice, until no longer raw, then stir in the cumin and the reserved bacon. Stir in the orange juice and turn off the heat. (The recipe can be made up to an hour or so ahead to this point. Gently warm the dressing again before proceeding.)

3. Put the spinach and orange slices in a bowl large enough to comfortably toss the salad quickly. Add the sweet potatoes and the warm dressing and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, and serve.

- serves 4 -

Adapted from Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman.