The best salad of the summer: Farro salad recipe

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I just can't stop eating this. Once I discovered quick-cooking farro, it has gone into my summer menu regularly. I love its chewy texture and how well it goes with almost anything I want to throw into it.

Farro, an ancient species of wheat, is both nutty and chewy, and makes a substantial end-of-summer dish when you stir in snap peas, sweet corn, chickpeas and tomatoes. It can be confusing because the word farro actually refers to three different varieties of wheat (spelt, einkorn and emmer.) Luckily, when you shop, you will most likely encounter “pearled” or “instant” farro. The outer husk of the grain has been removed to shorten the cooking time, which can be extensive otherwise. Toasting it in a dry pan prior to cooking brings out its full flavor. This is a grain you will want in your repertoire all year round.

Toasted farro salad with summer vegetables
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
Salt, to taste
2 cups (6 ounces) sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
1 cup quick cooking (pearled) farro
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bay leaf
Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn kernels (from 2 ears cooked corn)
1/2 pint (about 15) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 handfuls baby arugula
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute, or until bright green and tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to a colander and let run under cold water until cool. Drain and pat dry. Do not drain the water in the saucepan; return it to a simmer over medium heat.

2. In a dry saucepan over medium heat, stir the farro for 5 minutes, or until it darkens slightly and smells toasty.

3. Add the toasted farro to the saucepan of simmering water with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the bay leaf. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is tender. It should be pleasingly chewy. Drain in a large strainer and remove the bay leaf.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the warm farro and chickpeas and cool to room temperature. Add the corn kernels and cooked snap peas. At this point you can refrigerate the farro for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

5. Just before serving stir in the tomatoes, arugula, radishes and almonds. Taste and add more salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice if you like.

Posted on August 25, 2017 .

Linguine with clams

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With summer’s end approaching it's time to celebrate local seafood.  This simple, classic combination of clams with pasta stays close to its Italian roots: Cook only a few very good ingredients and quit while you’re ahead. Scrub the clams well rather than soaking them, and deal with sand at the end of cooking by straining the broth. Many available clams do not have much sand, unless you are digging them yourself.

Lay out all the ingredients before you start cooking. While the pasta cooks, you have just enough time to sauté the pancetta, garlic and chilies, add wine to the pan and cook the clams. As they release their delicious juices, the salty, smoky pancetta and heat from the chili combine to make a flavorful sauce. Just toss and enjoy.

Posted on August 22, 2017 .

Slow roasted salmon on a bed of greens

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The season for wild salmon from Alaska ranges from mid-May until September, so now is great time to enjoy it with the fresh herbs of summer.  Because wild salmon is lower in fat than farm-raised, it is easy to overcook it. The solution? Roast it slowly so it doesn’t dry out.

Slow-roasting fish isn’t new, but it’s a technique that can be applied to almost any fish that you want to cook in the oven. Instead of cooking it at high heat for the usual maxim of ten minutes per inch, turn down the oven and cook it for slightly longer; the total time expended is still minimal. Ask the fish seller to remove the skin and place the salmon on a bed of herbs so the flavors permeate the fish as it cooks. Salmon has pin bones, and the job of removing them is most often the cook’s. To facilitate locating them, try this trick: lay the salmon on top of an upside-down bowl so it is convex, run your fingers along the fish to find the bones, and firmly grasp them with tweezers or needle-nose pliers. The rest is as easy as summer living.

(Previously published in the Boston Globe)

Posted on August 18, 2017 .

A cranberry cookbook from me to you

I haven't made much of this. It came and went so fast my head is spinning. But, after a long break, I finished another cookbook. And it's in bookstores now!

One day last summer I told a friend I probably wouldn't write another cookbook, and she said, never say never. You don't know what is going to happen.

And that is the lesson learned, my friends. We don't like to acknowledge how little control we actually have over our lives. It is just too damn scary--especially for us the-sky-is-gonna-fall anxiety types. The upside is that what is right around the corner might be a good thing, a challenge we can embrace and celebrate. 

Which brings me to this book. It came to me from a friend who passed on it, but recommended me to the publisher (Globe Pequot Press in Connecticut.) I had no ambitions to write a single subject book, or another book for that matter. This one was to be a quick turnaround, no time to wait for cranberry season, but I decided to go for it. One of the best challenges for me was that I would be able to shoot all the photos myself. So it's a first, but not the last, as it turns out. More books are in the works, but I'll let you know when I sign on the dotted line.

This cake recipe is a sleeper, but one you must have in your pocket over the summer. Cranberries (frozen are fine) are tart and fabulous in this cake, but substitute other fruits as the summer progresses: apples, pears, plums, especially plums, peaches, even grapes would be good in this cake.

Cranberry Almond Skillet Cake
Makes one 10-inch cake

Butter (for the pan)
2/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into slices
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
Confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter a 10-inch skillet with a heatproof handle.

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar until fine. Set aside 1/4 cup of the almond-sugar mixture for the topping.

3. In a bowl, whisk the remaining almond-sugar mixture, the flour, baking powder, and salt until blended.

4. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar together for 3 minutes, or until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Beat in the vanilla.

5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thick. Scrape it into the pan, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon.

6. Distribute the cranberries over the cake and sprinkle with the reserved almond sugar.

7. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs still clinging to the skewer. Set on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges.

 

Find the cranberry cookbook on Amazon THE CRANBERRY COOKBOOK

Posted on April 30, 2017 .

Breakfast quiche recipe for the first day of Spring

It’s spring! Finally. The snow may still be on the ground today, but there’s hope in my heart, friends, when the sun is shining and the day is longer.

I’ve been making these lately because:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Protein gets you off to a great start.

Summer is coming.

(Forget about the bathing suit, I just want to fit into my jeans again.)

You can make them ahead.

They’re great to have on hand when company comes for the weekend.

Have them for lunch with a salad, no regrets.

Once you’ve made these, you’ll want to try different fillings. Leftover vegetables come to life when combined with different cheeses, cherry tomatoes or sautéed vegetables. Whip up the eggs in a blender—a little flour keeps the eggs from weeping.  If you’re not a fan of ham, you can substitute cooked bacon or just leave it out.  Make the basic custard and pour it over whatever combination of vegetables and cheese that pleases you. (I have omitted salt in the egg mixture because of the ham, so when improvising, be sure to sprinkle some into the custard.)

 

Crustless quiche recipe

Oil or cooking spray (for the ramekins)
6 ounces Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, finely sliced (white part only)
1 1/2 cups small ham cubes (from an 8-ounce ham steak)
3 cups packed baby spinach leaves (6 ounces)
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil six 1-cup ramekins. (Cooking spray works the best). Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. Grate 1/2  cup of the cheese. Cut the remaining cheese into small cubes.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the ham and spinach, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Set aside to cool, and stir in the cheese cubes.

4. In a blender, pulse the eggs, milk, flour and pepper, until smooth.

5. Set the ramekins on the baking sheet. Divide filling evenly among the ramekins. Pour the egg mixture over the filling and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy spring, friends!

 

 

Posted on March 20, 2017 .