Lemon Thyme and Ginger

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

I love curries and I love vegetables, but when I cook them together, the vegetables just fall apart. Despite my best efforts, the cauliflower and sweet potatoes always break apart in the sauce. Vegetable curry is one of my favorite meals, but I was ready to give up on it. Fortunately, a few years ago I mentioned my frustration to one of my brother’s in law, and he suggested roasting the vegetables instead of boiling them in the sauce. His suggestion was so simple, but was the perfect solution to improve the curry’s texture.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

The original recipe is from Fine Cooking, “South Indian Style Vegetable Curry” by Ellie Krieger, which I’ve made several times. Unfortunately, the vegetables went from perfect to overcooked in a matter of seconds. Roasting the cauliflower flowerettes and sweet potato chunks made a huge difference in appearance and taste. This technique developed vegetables with a firmer texture and a sweeter flavor. As a result, the curry sauce did not overwhelm the vegetables, but created more body to stand up against the complexity of the spices. My beloved vegetable curry recipe was reborn.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

Not that the sauce needed more flavor, but I couldn’t stop myself and added an additional curry spice blend to the roasted vegetables. To compliment the existing spices in the vegetable curry recipe, I sprinkled Massale curry, over the cauliflower and sweet potatoes. It is a sweet curry spice blend, like spices used in the vegetable curry.

The downside to roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is, that the curry is no longer a one pot meal. Now, it is a one pot and one sheet-pan meal. Despite the additional cleanup, this recipe is worth the extra step because the cauliflower and sweet potatoes taste so much better this way. Besides, cleaning the sheet pan is easy if you deglaze it with extra vegetable stock then add the stock to the curry. This extra step is up to you if you want it. The good news is, that the vegetables roast while the onions, carrots, tomatoes and Swiss chard cook in the curry sauce on the stove. If timed right, both sets of vegetables will finish cooking around the same time.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry recipe.

If you want more vegan meals check out these links: Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille  and Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Apricots and Pistachios. 

Fine Cooking and Ellie Krieger wrote a solid recipe, but I made several changes for extra depth of flavor. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes is key for creating a substantial body with the curry. Everything else I changed to enhance the flavor. First, I added wine to brighten the flavors. Then I swapped Swiss chard for the spinach to make it more substantial and added raisins because curries need some fruit to counter the heat. My last change is adding salted cashews for a garnish with some cilantro. The cashews add a crunchy bite against the tender vegetables while also adding more protein.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients and instruction scare you away. Making this curry is not as complicated as the lengthy lists implies. Like any vegetarian meal, the biggest hurdle is chopping all the vegetables. Once the chopping is done, the cooking is very straightforward.

Vegetable curry is a great meal for a vegetarian/vegan dinner. I love how the coconut milk compliments this signature blend of sweet and savory spices, especially the cinnamon. During these colder months, vegetable curry is a big soothing bowl full of comfort and joy.

South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

Indian Style Vegetable Curry

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Entrée

Cuisine: Vegan / Vegetarian

6 servings

Indian Style Vegetable Curry

The warm spices of coriander, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne meld together with coconut milk and an array of vegetables making and Indian style curry with just the right amount of heat. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potatoes helps them to retain their shape in the curry and not break down.

A mixture of broccoli and cauliflower also works nicely in the curry, but add more cauliflower than broccoli. Spinach can be substituted for the Swiss Chard, however add the spinach towards the end of cooking when you add the roasted vegetables. The spinach does not need as much time to cook as Swiss chard does.

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking South Indian Style Vegetable Curry.

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into flowerettes
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, (1 large or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) size pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide wedges
  • 1 tsp curry spice blend (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 TB (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 1 2-inch (5 cm) piece ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 2-3 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1-13.6 fl oz (403 ml) can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup (375 ml) vegetable stock
  • 3 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
  • 4 oz (125 g) Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped into bite size pieces, the leaves sliced across the width
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) raisins
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-15 oz (425 g) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Handful of salted cashews rough chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6) and place the rack in the middle position.
  2. Arrange the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and onion slices on a large sheet pan in an even layer. Drizzle 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, the Kosher salt, and ground curry (if using) over the vegetables and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast until just tender, about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, check for doneness by piercing the cauliflower and sweet potatoes to see if they are tender. Continue to roast the vegetables, checking every 10 minutes as needed. You want the vegetables to be just cooked through and not too soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a 5 qt (4.75 L) Dutch oven over medium high heat then add the remaining 2 TB (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the minced onions and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. While cooking, stir every now and then so the onions don't stick to the pan.
  4. Add the minced garlic and minced ginger to the cooked onions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard stem pieces and stir to coat and cook for a minute.
  5. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon stick to the pan and stir to mix. Gently toast the spices for one minute.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine mostly evaporates.
  7. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and stir until the coconut cream and water is mixed together.
  8. Add the carrots, Swiss chard, and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir the pot every now and then to keep the coconut milk from separating. Control the heat and keep the sauce at a simmer and not a brisk boil. This will keep the coconut milk from curdling.
  9. Once the roasted vegetables and the vegetables in the curry sauce are done, add the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, and raisins to the pot with the carrots, tomatoes, and Swiss Chard. Stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes to warm up the chickpeas.
  10. Turn off heat, and add the lime zest, lime juice, and chopped cilantro.
  11. Garnish with chopped cashews and chopped cilantro. Serve with white or brown rice.
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South Indian Style Vegetable Curry Recipe.

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Holiday Greeen Beans with Roasted Onions

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Everyone has their favorite food during the holidays. They are so important, if for some reason this special food was not on the menu, their holiday is not complete. I think it is obvious, Turkey is high on the list. It is however an unspoken agreement. Have you ever heard anyone speaking longingly for the roast Turkey when they reminisce about the holidays? No. Yet, the turkey sandwiches made with the leftover turkey is high on the to die for list.  For me, I have more than one holiday food favorite, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans. Not the green beans smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with canned fried onions, but fresh quickly blanched green beans and layered with caramelized oven roasted onions.

Holiday GreenBeans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions recipe.

With all the rich food piled high on your plate, something fresh and green helps balance everything out. It may even lighten the food load enough to believe you have room for seconds. Or, is that just wishful thinking? A crisp salad will provide a fresh alternative, but it is not high on the priority list. People want room on their plate and stomach for all the Thanksgiving side dishes, and salad usually does not make the cut. By the end of the meal, I always have half of the salad leftover.

On the other hand, there is always room for bright and crisp green beans with roasted onions. It satisfies people’s appetite in two ways. The roasted onions satiate any rich and indulgent cravings because of caramelized onions. Plus, the green beans provide a bright taste to counter all the oven roasted foods. The other bonus, by the end of the meal there are none leftover.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Traditional green bean casserole is not high on my ‘Must Have” list. I did not grow up with green bean casserole as part of my childhood Thanksgiving meal and therefore don’t crave it. I also have a slight aversion to anything made with cream of mushroom soup. During my childhood, canned soup was an ingredient in half of mom’s dinners. At that time, during the 50’s and 60’s, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup was the secret ingredient in most foods. It was the quick and easy answer to making a béchamel sauce. In my opinion, Thanksgiving dinner requires green beans, and blanched green beans with roasted onions is the perfect substitute for this traditional casserole.

Making green beans with roasted onions requires a two-step process. Both are easy to do, plus you can make the onions up to two days in advance. The most involved part is roasting the onions. The onions are cooked in two stages. First, I roast the onions in the oven. Then, I deglaze the pan and add the pan juices to the onions and cook down the liquid. This two-step process develops roasted onions with a deep caramel color and flavor. The other benefit is, in comparison to the traditional roast caramelized onion method, the roasting time is cut in half.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions Recipe.

More Thanksgiving vegetable sides: Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

You can make the green beans at the last minute, then season with butter or olive oil, and herbs. I love tarragon with green beans, but it competes with the traditional Thanksgiving herbs of sage, rosemary and thyme. Fresh parsley is a good substitute because it brings a fresh taste and pairs well with the other foods. A light garnish of lemon zest is a nice touch, but not necessary because red wine vinegar is added in the roasted onions.

This is a throwback recipe I originally got from Bon Appétit Magazine in November of 1995. It was a recipe in a story about Thanksgiving Menu ideas from around the country. I believe green beans with roasted onions comes from a New England Thanksgiving based on the other food items on the menu. I slightly changed the recipe by omitting the sugar, deglazing the pan, and lowering the oven temperature for roasting the onions. It is a timeless recipe and I also appreciate the ease of preparation.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I hope over the course of the month I will post additional recipes for my two other “must have” Thanksgiving sides, cranberry sauce and stuffing.  If you were to ask my children what their Thanksgiving favorite food is, they would say “It’s not Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Easter, without Pineapple Stuffing.”

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Category: Vegetable Side Dish

Cuisine: American

12

Serving Size: 6 oz

Holiday Green Beans with Roasted Onions

Quickly blanched fresh green beans, offer a bright and fresh taste to rich holiday foods. These green beans with roasted onions provide a welcome contrast between the bright green beans and the sweet caramelized onions. I think it is a healthy substitute for green bean casserole during Thanksgiving.

This recipe is easily scaled up or down.

For easy time management, the onions can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Warm up the onions in the microwave before adding them to the green beans.

Serve warm.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sized onions
  • 3 TB Extra Virgin olive oil plus more for the green beans
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (500 ml) of water or vegetable stock
  • 2 TB red wine vinegar
  • 3 lbs (1.5 k) fresh green beans
  • 3 TB of chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • If you prefer, substitute 2 TB of butter instead of the olive oil to coat the green beans.

Instructions

    Prepare the onions
  1. Arrange the oven rack to the upper and lower thirds of your oven
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6
  3. Lightly spray two large sheet pans with cooking spray
  4. Peel and slice each onion into 12 wedges
  5. Spread the onion slices evenly between the two sheet pans and drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt and a couple of rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Toss the onions with your hands to get them evenly coated with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the onions are nicely browned, about 45 minutes or longer. While the onions are roasting check them every 15 minutes and turn them over with a spatula so they evenly brown. Half way through, rotate the pans top to bottom. Watch and make sure the onions do not burn.
  6. Remove the onions from the oven and slide them into a skillet or saucepan. Place one sheet pan over two burners set to medium-high heat and add 1 cup (250 ml) of water or vegetable stock. Deglaze the pan. Use a flat bottom wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits on the sheet pan and bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the liquid to half a cup (125 ml). Pour the liquid into the pan with the onions. Deglaze the second sheet pan.
  7. Add the deglazed liquid to the onions and turn the heat to medium. Simmer the onions until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Turn off the heat and add the red wine vinegar. Stir to mix. If you are making the onions in advance, don't add the vinegar yet. Cool the onions and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Just before serving, heat the onions in a microwave then add the vinegar.
    Prepare the green beans
  1. While the onions are roasting, clean and trim off the stems of the green beans. Set a large stock pot filled part way with water on a burner over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water, then add the green beans. Stir to submerge all the green beans. Cook the green beans for one to two minutes. Drain the green beans from the water and add them back into the pot. Drizzle olive oil, or 2 TB of butter, and a sprinkle of Kosher salt over the green beans. Toss to coat. Taste and correct for seasoning. Add chopped parsley and toss.
  2. Put the blanched green beans in a serving bowl or platter and arrange the warmed onions in the middle of the green beans. Serve immediately.
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Green Beans with Roasted Onions a healthy alternative for Green bean casserole

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

Fall, Recent Posts, Soup, Vegan | November 1, 2017 | By

Whenever I try a new food or learn a new trick I like to share it with you on my blog. This week I discovered a winter squash I never had before, kabocha squash. It is a gnarly looking green winter squash like a small pumpkin, and tastes like a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin. Kabocha is sweet and dense like a sweet potato, but with as silkier texture. Compared to a sugar pumpkin, it has a deeper burnt orange color, smoother texture, and a richer sweet squash flavor. It is not a new variety, but one that is gaining in popularity throughout the US. Like most winter squashes, you can substitute Kabocha in most recipes using winter squash.

Kabocha coconut curry soup recipe

My curiosity was piqued after reading a recipe for Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup. In the recipe the author described Kabocha squash as the sweetest of winter squashes available. Of course, I had to test her statement and bought it to make her soup. This soup is made up of some of my favorite flavor combinations, Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, fresh ginger, and lemongrass. I have a weakness for Thai coconut curries and love stews and soups made with them. With that in mind, I knew this soup recipe is a winner.

Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup comes from Meyers and Chang At Home, by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. This is a wonderful cookbook featuring dishes from the restaurant Meyers and Chang in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The book is filled with amazing recipes celebrating Taiwanese food and Joanne Chang’s Taiwanese American heritage. For their ginger curry soup recipe, they recommend using one of three different winter squashes, with Kabocha high on their list. I found soup is a great meal to make when trying an unfamiliar vegetable. In the event you are not totally in love with the flavor, it is easier to doctor-up soup into something preferable. Fortunately, kabocha’s flavor satisfied like I thought it would, and required no doctoring. The rich and sweet flavor, and silky texture of the kabocha was perfect with the fresh ginger and Thai curry paste. This soup is giving my all-time favorite pumpkin soup some competition.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

This is an easy soup to make, but there are a couple of considerations.

How to peel Kabocha squash 2 ways

Like a lot of winter squash, Kabocha has a very tough outer skin. Peeling off the skin is tricky. You need a good cutting board and sturdy surface, and a sharp chef’s knife.

First, cut the kabocha squash in half, then pull the two sides apart. Then scoop out the seeds like you would for a pumpkin. Scrape out as many stringy strands too. Once cleaned, cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges depending on how big your kabocha is. Finally, lay each wedge on its side with the skin facing out, and run your knife down along the outer side, slicing along the curve of the wedge.

Kabocha coconut curry soup reicpe

Kabocha coconut curry soup reicpe

The alternative method is to roast the Kabocha then slice away the peel. First, cut the kabocha in half, scoop out the seeds, then slice in wedges like the method above. Place the wedges on a sheet pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the kabocha wedges and sprinkle with some Kosher salt. Place the sheet pan in a pre-heated 400°F/ 204°C oven. Roast the squash until the flesh is very tender, about 40 minutes to an hour. Using a spoon or a knife, scoop or cut out the flesh away from the peel. This method cooks and peels the vegetable at the same time.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup recipe

More delicious Asian Cuisine inspired recipes:

Sugar Snap Peas this Shiitake Mushrooms,

Pork Fried Dumplings

Tips for making Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

The other consideration is keeping the coconut milk from separating or curdling. This happens when the coconut milk reaches a certain temperature and the proteins that link the fat to the water change shape,  denaturing of the protein,  and no longer stay emulsified.  It is a natural process and does not cause coconut milk to go bad. It just looks unappetizing. To prevent the coconut milk from curdling it is important to make sure the coconut milk is at room temperature and the ingredients in the pot are not boiling. I work at controlling the temperature, so the coconut milk stays emulsified and smooth. Stirring the soup helps with this as well.

While making this soup, I lowered the temperature after the kabocha became tender and mushy. Then I let the liquids in the pot cool down to barely a simmer. Once the soup cooled, but remained warm, I added the coconut milk while stirring constantly until the coconut milk incorporated. Once the coconut milk is added, the soup needs to cook for an additional 30 minutes. It is important to control the soup’s temperature, so it does not boil. I slightly turned up the heat to a low simmer and continued to stir the soup at regular intervals.

I have yet to determine if Kabocha is the sweetest of winter squashes around, but I am eager to continue testing that theory. My next kabocha adventure might be adding it in my pumpkin pie recipe, or my sweet potato cake recipe. What is your favorite Kabocha or winter squash recipe? Let me know in the comments section below the recipe.

If you liked this post and recipe, let me know by clicking on the Like button at the bottom of the post. Thank you.

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup Recipe

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Prep Time: 20 hours

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Category: Soup

Cuisine: Asian American

About 6 cups

Serving Size: 12 oz

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha is a green winter squash with burnt orange flesh. It has a sweet and silky flavor like sweet potatoes. Winter squash combined with Thai red curry paste, and coconut milk creates a delicious soup you will want to make repeatedly. If kabocha squash is not available substitute it with butternut squash or sugar pumpkin.

This recipe is from Meyers and Chang At Home by Joanne Chang and Karen Akuowicz with slight adjustments. Meyers and Chang is a Taiwanese - American restaurant in Boston's South End neighborhood.

Ingredients

  • 2 TB olive oil or butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 TB fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 TB Thai Red Curry Paste
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs (750 g - 1 k) Kabocha or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • Zest from 2 limes, (or preferable if you have access to Asian markets 2 makrut lime leaves)
  • 1 13.5 oz (403 ml) can of coconut milk
  • 2 TB fresh squeezed lime juice, more to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Kosher salt, more to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat for about a minute. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables cook, stir frequently to prevent the onions and ginger from sticking to the bottom.
  2. Add the curry paste and stir until incorporated. Cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the kabocha, or butternut squash, and 2 cups (500 ml) of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until the squash is tender and mushy. About 15 minutes.
  4. Prepare the lemongrass. Peel off the outer papery layer and discard. If your lemongrass is not already trimmed, cut off the top 2/3 of the stalk, leaving about 6-7 inches of a pale and pliable piece. Cut off the dense base of the stalk. Slice the stalk down the center lengthwise.
  5. Turn down the heat to low. Add the lemongrass and lime zest, or lime leaf if using.
  6. Once the soup ingredients stop boiling and cooled to a low simmer, add the coconut milk. Constantly stir until the coconut milk is thoroughly mixed in. Be careful not to allow the soup to a boil, or the coconut milk will curdle. Frequent stirring will also prevent the coconut milk from curdling.
  7. Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes. Make sure the temperature does not get above a gentle simmer. Stir the soup at frequent intervals to prevent curdling.
  8. When done, remove the lime leaves (if using) and lemongrass from the soup. Use a fork to help fish out any loose lemongrass strings.
  9. Purée the soup. In a blender, food processor or immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you are using a blender leave a vent for the heat to escape. Also purée the soup in batches so the soup does not explode. I used my immersion blender with good results and avoided possible explosions with a blender. However, blenders do a better job at getting a smoother purée.
  10. Once puréed, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.
  11. Place your soup back in your stock pot and taste, and turn the temperature to medium low. Add the lime juice and correct the seasoning with the sugar and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When adding the sugar and Kosher salt, start with less amounts then taste. You can easily add more. Add more lime juice if needed. Also, add more water if the soup is too thick. The texture should be light and smooth and not too thick.
  12. Serve warm right away.
  13. Can be made 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or freeze up to 2 weeks.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe

One ancient grain that is making a new impression in today’s modern diet is farro. I discovered it a few years ago by accident when I bought it instead of fregola. My lapse in memory steered me off course, because farro is a wheat and fregola is a pasta made with semolina flour. These items don’t belong in the same aisle at the grocery store. Fortunately, this mistake was well worth making and I have cooked farro ever since.

Toasted Farro with mushroom and rosemary recipe

About Farro

Farro is a whole grain with an ancient pedigree. This grain was a staple wheat that fed ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean and Middle East. According to The Spruce, farro might be the mother wheat from which all wheat comes from. Honestly, I am more confused now than before I stared researching farro. Apparently, some confusion exists about the name or I should say, names. I don’t know if it is made by combining three wheat varieties – einkorn, emmer and spelt. Or, identified as either of the three wheat varieties. Or, all of the above. After reading the two previously linked articles and this one from NPR, I think it is all of the above.

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Ultimately, what is important to know is the variety of farro. The variety determines how you must prepare your farro and how long to cook it. The three varieties are, whole, semi-pearled, and pearled. Whole grain farro has the whole grain intact and needs overnight soaking before cooking. The semi-pearled and pearled varieties have the bran partially or completely removed. Without the bran, farro cooks faster and does not need soaking. My grocery store only carries pearled farro, so I do not have experience cooking with the other varieties. Because of the different varieties I recommend reading the label and directions carefully. This way you know what type of farro you have and how long to cook it.

Despite the varieties and confusion, farro is a delicious grain and worth making. I like its nutty flavor and chewy texture. The complexity of flavor adds more depth and is a nice substitute for rice or potatoes. Usually, I make it for a side dish with roasted meats. This way, while the meat roasts, it is easy to focus my attention on making the farro.

   Pair farro with  Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken (without the roasted veggies)

 

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary recipe

Dried porcini mushrooms and powder.

Cooking with Farro

For this recipe I craved something with the creaminess of a risotto, but not as rich and requiring less effort. Mushrooms add smooth and silky texture to grains and are in season now. They make the grains taste creamy without adding dairy. There is a pound of mushrooms sautéed with two types of onions in this meal for a super luxurious feel and earthy flavor. I combined cremini mushrooms and button mushrooms, yet any mushroom combination will work.

Additionally, I added some dried porcini mushroom powder for extra depth. This is optional, but is an economical and effective way to add wild mushroom flavor. If only white button mushrooms are available, I recommend adding the dried mushroom powder to boost the mushroom flavor. To make it, grind dried mushrooms in a spice grinder until it turns into a fine powder. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid in your pantry. Just a small amount of the dried mushroom powder adds a lot of body to any meal.

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Toasted Farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Whenever I cook with grains, I like to make them easily adaptable into a vegetarian or vegan main dish. By itself, farro with mushrooms and rosemary is not a complete protein source. With the added cashews, this is a nutritionally dense side dish. Add cannellini beans or lentils, and this transforms into a protein packed plant-based meal. Grains and legumes are complimentary proteins, so when combined in one meal all the amino acids are available. Because semi-pearled or pearled farro has some or all the bran removed, these types of grains do not make a complete protein when combined with legumes. Yet, it is a great vegan option.

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

How to Cook Farro

Instead of following the directions on the back label of my farro, I followed the recommendation from Joshua McFadden in his Six Seasons Cookbook. First, I toasted the farro in a large skillet with smashed garlic and red pepper flakes. Once toasted, I added water and a bay leaf, covered the pan and let it simmer until done. I like making rice like this too. Toasting grains in a skillet brings out the nuttiness in the grain and the fragrance is delightful. It cooks faster too. Unfortunately, toasting farro and sautéing the mushrooms requires the use of two large skillets. If you only have one skillet, use a 4 or 5-quart Dutch Oven for the mushrooms, and a 10-inch skillet for the farro. Sautéing vegetables and toasting grains requires a wide surface area to prevent the food from steaming.

With the sautéed mushrooms and onions an ancient grain comes to life with rich flavors. I got the desired creaminess of risotto without all the stirring and extra cheese. Like chatting with a dear friend, farro with mushrooms and rosemary provides sustenance and comfort after a day’s work.

Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Main

Cuisine: Italian American

8 servings

Serving Size: 4 oz

Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary

Farro is an ancient wheat that is still popular in Italy. It has a nutty flavor and is perfect made into a side dish with roast chicken or pork. I love the creaminess sautéed mushrooms brings when combined with grains so I added a full pound of mushrooms to compliment the farro. For added texture and nuttier flavor, I added cashews. Sherry vinegar added at the end of cooking, brightens the earthy meal. If you can't find sherry vinegar substitute it with red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

I toast farro using pearlized farro. Whole farro needs to be soaked overnight, to soften the bran, then simmered in water the next day. It is hard to toast grains that are saturated with water so this technique might not work. However, you can still enjoy this recipe using whole farro. Siimply follow the cooking instructions given with the farro, then add the cooked farro to the sautéed mushrooms and onions.

For a vegetarian entrée: add cannellini beans, lentils, or chickpeas, and sautéed greens with the farro.

Ingredients

    For the Farro
  • 1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushes
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup (188 g) pearled farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
    For the Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary
  • 2 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, minced reserve leaves for later
  • 8 oz (225 g) baby bella mushrooms
  • 8 oz (225 g) button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp dried powder* (optional)
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary,
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 TB sherry vinegar
  • 2 oz (62 g) lightly salted cashews, rough chopped
  • More rosemary and celery leaves for garnish

Instructions

    Make the Farro
  1. Place a large skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium. Add the olive oil. Just when the olive oil begins to shimmer, add the crushed garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat and gently sauté until the garlic begins to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and bay leaf and stir to coat. Constantly stir the grains while toasting so they do not burn. Toast the farro until it begins to brown and become fragrant. Add the water and Kosher salt then bring to boil. Cover the skillet and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the farro until tender but still has a bite. It should not be mushy or the grain split open. Start tasting the farro at 15 minutes for doneness and continue as needed. When the farro is just cooked, drain the water and remove the bay leaf.
    Putting it all together
  1. Meanwhile heat up a large skillet and add 2 TB olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the celery onions and shallots. Stir to combine. Remove the rosemary leaves off its stem and add the stem to the onions and celery. Reserve the rosemary leaves for later. Sauté on medium heat until the vegetables get tender and the onions translucent. Add a small pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 tsp and stir.
  2. Add all the mushrooms and stir to get them nicely coated with oil. Continue to cook and occasionally stir until all the juices from the mushrooms evaporates.
  3. Scoop out a tablespoon of the farro cooking liquid and add it plus 1 teaspoon of the dried mushroom powder to the mushrooms. Stir until mixed in. Taste and correct the seasoning for salt. Remove the rosemary stems and stir in the butter.
  4. When the farro is cooked al dente, and drained from the water, add it to the skillet with the mushrooms. Stir. Add the minced rosemary and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add a few grinds of the fresh pepper and one tablespoon of sherry vinegar, turn off the heat and stir.
  5. Garnish with chopped cashews, chopped celery leaves, and chopped rosemary. This dish can be made ahead and reheated later. Add the cashews and herb garnishes just before serving.
  6. Serve hot as a side dish.

Notes

To make the dried mushroom powder. Add a small handful of dried mushrooms to a clean spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Continue until you used up all your dried mushrooms. Put the mushroom powder in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in your pantry for 3 months. This mushroom powder recipe is from My Master Recipes by Patricia Wells .

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Fresh Basil Marinated Zucchini

During the busy summer months we all need those back pocket recipes. The ones you can just whip out and create without thinking about it. Marinated Zucchini is just one of those recipes. It is so easy, after you made it a couple of times you know it by heart.

Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe

What I love about marinated zucchini is, the cooking process is simple and (to coin a phrase from Food52), genius.  First, you slice each small zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Once prepared, sear each zucchini slice in a skillet with olive oil. Then, marinate the seared zucchini for one hour in a basic vinaigrette and fresh basil. That is it. Simple, but a recipe that develops great depth of flavor in a mild tasting summer vegetable. If properly cooked, the acid will not make the zucchini soggy. Instead, it develops a bright taste yet retains the subtle and clean zucchini flavor.

Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe.

This recipe is from Canal House Cooking Volume 8: Pronto (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) via Food52. There is no need to make adjustments, it is already perfect. I just added a little more fresh basil right before serving as a garnish and extra basil flavor.  You could experiment with other herbs like lemon thyme, parsley or tarragon, but the warm sunshine flavor of basil is notable.

Is your garden overflowing with zucchini? Try these other great zucchini recipes from my archives:

Zucchini, Corn and Avocado Salad

Zucchini Frittata

 

Basil marinated zucchini reicpe.

This recipe is also easy to resize. The original recipe calls for a half pound of zucchini. Fortunately, I found the perfect size zucchini at my local farm stand, each one weighing about a quarter of a pound, (113 g). I decided to double the recipe just so I could have more zucchini to photograph and work with. I was also able to fit all 8 of my zucchini halves in my 10-inch cast iron skillet. Look for small, same size zucchini at your store or market. The little quarter-pounders are perfect. Big and fat zucchini may look impressive, but are not suited for this recipe. They take longer to cook and have larger seeds in the middle.

Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe

 

Nutritional Benefits of Zucchini 

The only difficult part about making marinated zucchini is remembering to make them at least an hour in advance. This is not a last minute recipe idea. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to make marinated zucchini and realized I forgot about the marinating step. This is not a salad recipe where you add the vinaigrette just before serving. The hour marinating is important to build the bright flavor from the vinegar and sets this recipe apart from others. As a result, this is a great make ahead recipe.

 

Fresh Herb Marinated Zucchini

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Category: Vegetable side dish

Cuisine: Italian American

4-8 servings

Fresh Herb Marinated Zucchini

This is one of my favorite ways to eat zucchini. The vinaigrette gives the zucchini some character, yet still retains it's mild taste. The only thing that is difficult about making this great zucchini recipe is to remember to make it at least one hour in advance. The zucchini tastes bright and is accented from the warm sweetness of fresh basil. Vinegar will tenderize the zucchini so, be careful to cook the zucchini just enough to be tender but still have some firmness.

If you have small zucchinis, about 1/4 pound (113 g) each, I portion one zucchini per person.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 8, (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) on Food52.

Ingredients

    For Zucchini
  • 2 TB (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 lb (453 g) very small zucchini, ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt
    Vinaigrette Marinade
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 TB (30 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 6 TB (1/3 cup / 75 ml)extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 - 8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Cook the zucchini. In a large skillet, heat 2 TB (30 ml) olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the zucchini halves to the pan cut side down. Depending on the size of your pan and zucchini, you may have to cook the zucchini in batches. Sear the zucchini until nicely golden brown. After 3 minutes check to see if the zucchini is nicely golden brown*. If not, continue to cook on the cut side checking every couple of minutes until tender. Once the zucchini is golden brown turn over each piece, then cook on the opposite side for 3 minutes more. The zucchini is done when it is golden brown on the top and tender, but not too soft in the middle. Transfer the zucchini slices to a shallow dish and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt.
    Vinaigrette
  1. While the zucchini is searing, in a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the zucchini slices and add the fresh basil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for one hour. If you need to make this well ahead of time, marinate the zucchini in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Serve at room temperature as a vegetable side dish.

Notes

* The original recipe says to cook for 3 minutes on the first side. I have never gotten the zucchini a nice golden brown in 3 minutes. I have a gas stove top using liquid propane, and typically it takes 6 - 8 minutes to achieve a light golden brown. As with all recipes, use them as a guide because your conditions and equipment are different from the author's.

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