Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Romano Beans

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When I get into something, I really get into something.

I started crocheting last year and relentlessly hooked my way to coasters, headbands and half-done mittens. I watched epic YouTube how-to videos on different stitching methods. I developed calluses. Now my yarn and plastic hooks are stowed away somewhere beneath my bed.

Last summer’s thing was running. I went from never running ever ever ever to zipping around 5 miles a day. I bought super lightweight shoes because I’d read in a book that running barefoot was a good idea. My knees started hurting. Hello, stress fracture.

But more than a year ago, I had a rampant reaction to working at a summer camp for nearly two months and never once having the chance to cook for myself. So much iceberg lettuce and canned black beans. I don’t want to talk about it.

That reaction was this. And I haven’t gotten calluses or stress fractures yet. And I sure as poop haven’t stowed it away beneath my bed.

Everything’s on the kitchen counter.

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So let’s dive right into it after that brief sojourn.

I’ve never cooked with farro. It’s been a mysterious grain ever since I first learned about it, and I had thrown all of my efforts into finding it. It’s been a long journey through aisles of beans, bulky items, almond milk and the “ethnic” row. I had to answer a few riddles to get there.

I practically cried when I found the stuff. Farro has more protein than quinoa. It’s untouched grain. And there’s no controversy surrounding it just yet.

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Heirloom tomatoes are such babes I don’t even know where to begin.

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I mean, come on. Stop.

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Crispy romano beans. I used to eat this stuff by the bucketload on long hikes. So refreshing. Yum in my face.

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What’s a salad without some dressing, right? Olive oil, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar add some zing and refreshment that might make you think it’s summer time.

Ooh, that’s a good one.

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Farro and wine. Let’s get Italian.

Farro salad with heirloom tomatoes and romano beans.

adapted from The New York Times

2 cups cooked farro
7-8 baby heirloom tomatoes, roughly sliced
1lb romano beans, trimmed and blanched

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

To cook the farro, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil and add the grain. Let it simmer for about 40-50 minutes, or until the grains look like they’ve blossomed. Drain thoroughly and douse with cold water.

While the farro is cooking, chop the tomatoes and trim the romano beans. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beans. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and immediately remove from heat before giving the beans a cold water bath.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Toss the beans, tomatoes and farro in a large salad bowl before adding the dressing. Toss everything together, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, top with fresh parsley.

Makes about 4-6 servings, which might be just enough to alleviate at least some of the pain caused by this weekend’s Patriots game.

Not Your Average Salads and White Wine Sangria

Five things I did this weekend (that you may or may not want to do, too):

Slept in until noon. Oh, the joys of light-blocking curtains and quiet neighbors.

Learned “Something” on the ukulele.

Took a walk despite having to wear a brace.

Found a treasure trove of heirloom tomatoes and kale with a sign reading “These are all free! Please help yourself!”

Succumbed to a Martha Stewart recipe for quick pickled cucumber.

It wasn’t a moment of weakness. She had the easiest recipe for a salad I first tried ages ago during a Fourth of July barbecue. Let’s not talk about this ever again? Thanks.

Oh wait. Guys. I also made white wine sangria with infused mint simple syrup. That one’s all me.

Above-average salads start with a mandolin slicer and crisp cucumber. And if you’re like me, here’s a word of advice: Use those little hand protector things that hold the vegetable you’re slicing. It’ll save you from getting nicked when you get too close to the blade. I…let’s not talk about it.

Thinly sliced onions. Apple cider vinegar. Salt and pepper. Tossed and marinated overnight. Martha, you got me on this one.

Oh wait, I made this, too. Am I going too far? Am I just spewing out photos of things I whipped up? It’s okay, I have some catching up to do. This bean salad doesn’t even need dressing. That’s how good it is. And yeah, those are baby heirlooms from the vegetable angels.

Of course, what Labor Day weekend would be complete without some white wine sangria? More nectarines means more reasons to cling to every last sinew of summer. And pinot grigio means fewer excuses to run to the bathroom to brush your teeth because of wine teeth. Crisis averted.

Hi. My name is Mimi. You look like a refreshing summer beverage. Let’s be friends.

Quick pickled cucumber salad

adapted from Martha Stewart

4 cucumbers, thinly sliced with a mandolin or steady hands
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Chuck everything into a bowl, toss lightly and cover before putting into the fridge to rest over night.

Black-eyed pea salad

adapted from Didi Emmons

4 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
6oz mozarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 large sticks of celery, chopped into 1/4 inch sections
handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Throw everything in a bowl and toss. Eat immediately.

White wine sangria

2 bottles dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or chardonnay
1 litre club soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup hot water
4-5 sprigs of mint, de-stemmed and rinsed thoroughly
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint blackberries
1-2 nectarines, sliced

In a small sauce pan, bring the water to a near boil before turning off the heat and adding the sugar. Stir constantly until all of the sugar crystals are dissolved. Add the mint leaves and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Sieve through a wire mesh to get the leaves out before adding to the sangria.

In a large bowl, pour in the wine and all the fruit. Add the infused simple syrup and stir gently. Let sit for at least 4 hours so the fruit soaks up the wine and vice versa.

Just before serving, add club soda and garnish each glass with fresh mint.

Review: Red Lentil

Real talk, guys.

Sometimes I don’t cook. Sometimes I forget to go to the grocery store. Sometimes I order in. Sometimes a pizza from that hole in the wall around the corner sounds like a good idea. Usually, it’s not a good idea.

There are also times when I cook at 11 p.m., when the lights are dim and all I have in the pantry are rice and beans. And kimchi. Smorgasbord doom.

That’s how life rolls. Sometimes.

But at least there are still restaurants like Red Lentil, which I had the pleasure of reviewing some time ago and feel as though it’s my duty to pay Chef Pankaj Pradhan my respects.

Sesame encrusted seitan strips are little pockets of teriyaki, smoky and charred yum on my tongue. Considered an appetizer by the menu, these morsels could easily be munched as an entree because the serving sizes are massive. And talk about soft and juicy – I don’t know why I ever liked chicken.

Seitan is a testy subject with most meat eaters. One of my fellow comrades once told me the first time he ever tried “satan,” as he insists on calling it, he wanted to spit it out. Truth be told, this form of gluten is usually chewy, gummy and bland, but the folks at Red Lentil fry it up to perfection.

Chef Pradhan really has the beet. These thin beet-potato latkes are filled with Granny Smith apples and thyme dates before they’re pan fried. With a side salad, apricot marmalade and cilantro vinaigrette, this gets another vote for potential entree or shareable side.

I call this a pile of cauliflower smothered in sweet-and-spicy tomato sauce that would send any meat lover over the edge. Dubbed the Gobi Manchurian by Pradhan, this Indian-inspired dish has chunks of peppers and onions (love me some veggie chunks) while the cauliflower is battered in chickpea flour. Even my brother, who would rather eat Taco Bell than make his own stir fry, thinks vegetarian dishes like this are uh-ma-zing.

Whoa, vegans. Stand back. Vegan Belgian waffles are here to fill your belly for hours. I don’t care if you eat the fluffy housemade soy whipped cream first (I know I did), or if you save it for last – I guarantee you will find a way to stuff every last cubic inch of your stomach with this pile of breakfast delights. It’s crispy, it’s sweet, it’s light and airy – dance party in my mouth. My only qualm about this dish is that melon never belongs in a fruit salad. But that’s just my own meh-ing problem.

Hey wait. Did I mention all of this was given to me at once? I swear to all things delicious that I didn’t eat it all in one sitting. But I might’ve finished it over the course of a day. Zero shame.

You. Don’t. Even. Know. How amazing this vegan carrot cake was. Unless you’ve been to Red Lentil. Then you probably know. Squishy, smooth-as-butter-but-doesn’t-actually-contain-butter morsel of carrots made fresh every single darned day. Don’t get me started on the raspberry sauce. I might explode.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus

I make things up.

I add yeast when I probably shouldn’t. I put chocolate chips where they certainly don’t belong – like my mouth. In big handfuls.

I create smorgasbords when creative juices aren’t flowing after eight hours of nonstop thinking and my brain is a scrambled egg.

This is your brain on the 9-5 crunch.

Sometimes, and only on these lucky occasions, I manage to produce a healthy concoction with every major food group without once being tempted to sneak a bite of chocolate.

Butter not required.

Quinoa is a super grain. Riddled with protein and fiber, it’s a vegetarian’s dream. And a carnivore’s best friend.

Cooked like rice, two parts water to one part grains, quinoa is perfect for a quick and healthy snack in lieu of salty crackers or chips. Also, you can make crazy granola out of the stuff. On my to-make list. Frizzle.

Garlic is roasted with some asparagus at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour or until everything’s crispy, juicy, and full of incredible flavor.

I grew cilantro from seeds. They’ve taken months to finally produce tasty leaves. Worth the wait.

Hello quinoa, zucchini and black-eyed peas.

Everything gets tossed together and consumed hot or cold.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus.

Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen.

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water
1/2 large zucchini, chopped
7 asparagus stalks
5-6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
handful of mint
handful of cilantro
1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons capers
15oz can blackeyed peas, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bread pan, line the asparagus along the bottom and top with unpeeled garlic. Toss with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 30 minutes. Let cool before peeling the garlic and chopping the asparagus.

While the quinoa is cooking, place a heat-safe steamer above the pot and lightly steam the chopped zucchini.

Once both the quinoa and zucchini are done, add to the blackeyed peas in a large mixing bowl.

Mince the cilantro, mint, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and roasted garlic before adding to the quinoa mixture. Add the chopped asparagus and top with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss until every ingredient is fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Makes about 5 cups of munchies (good for about three eaters).

Sage Potato Chips

Mornings are best spent watching the sun creep into my room and filter through the blinds.

Saturdays are a little less lazy than Sundays, but are no less a perfect excuse to turn over, burrow and sleep until noon.

Of course, the radio has to come on for Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, because a weekend without Peter Segal is a weekend without joy.

In order to recover from the work week, I tend to get itchy for cooking, baking, gardening, crafting and cleaning. I’ve stopped making lists because they’re more or less the same every time:

1. Groceries
2. Re-pot plants
3. Pluck eyebrows
4. SHOES
5. You really need to get rid of clothes

And so on.

Yeah, my to-do list talks to me. She shows no mercy.

Now, I just talk to myself while I’m nestled in bed, unsure of the time and hesitant but all the same excited to get the ball rolling.

It’s barbecue season. Get ready with homemade potato chips.

Fuzzy sage is an incredible herb. It perfectly complements sweet potato and is an added surprise in pasta tosses.

I got a mandoline slicer and make potato chips so often that they’re starting to become a staple snack in my household. I also have the habit of eating them straight off the pan. No time to make it to the bowl.

The oil is infused with sage leaves for about half an hour. The result is subtle, fragrant and fancier than Saveur.

Sage Potato Chips.

1 medium potato, thinly sliced with a mandoline
bunch of sage leaves, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat up a skillet with the oil until just slightly warm. Throw in the sage and let sit for about half an hour, until the leaves are slightly wilted.

In a large bowl, toss the potato slices with the warmed oil, cayenne, salt and pepper until all surfaces are covered.

Lay out individually on a baking sheet and add more fresh sage leaves as you please (they get crispy like a chip in the oven).

Bake for about 15 minutes – be sure to watch as they bake surprisingly fast.

Makes about 25 chips.