Farro and Pomegranate Salad

Chewy farro flecked with pomegranate seeds, feta, bacon and almonds makes a colorful and hearty main-course salad. The salty-tart flavor of preserved lemons adds a unique twist.

a bowl of farro pomegranate salad

When it comes to the latest dietary fad or junk-science eating recommendations, I’m an avowed denyer. In my humble opinion, sugar is not evil. Unless you have celiac disease or wheat sensitivity, gluten is not the devil’s work. Dairy is not the enemy and caffeine will not kill you.

When it comes to eating, I trust in the axiom, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” I believe that, holistically, it’s healthier to stop stressing about what goes in our mouth and just eat – a variety of food (I said “food” – not chemicals or genetically modified food-like stuff), mindfully, when we’re hungry, in moderation. I think the worry, the self-denying, the strict adherence to dietary “rules” that seem to change weekly cause more toxicity in our bodies than a well-marbled, 3-oz. grass-fed steak. If you want the cookie, eat the damn cookie. Just don’t eat the whole dozen. …or if you DO eat the whole dozen (guilty!), don’t do it all the time (that’s the “moderation in moderation” part).

I had a conversation recently about the healthfulness of farro. We had overindulged during the holidays and were talking about “cleansing” to help our sluggish-feeling systems reset. I mentioned making a farro salad for lunch. She looked at me as if I had just said I was going to eat nothing but Twinkies for a week. “That’s not cleansing – don’t you know farro contains (the ominous and deadly) g..g..g..gluten!!!” Obviously, our ideas of “cleansing” are different. Gluten is not my enemy.

Farro is a nutritious whole grain. It’s an excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients, and contains a variety of antioxidants like polyphenols, carotenoids, phytosterols and selenium. Add some fiber and vitamin-C rich pomegranate seeds and hunger-satiating fat with almonds and olive oil. Satisfy the splurge factor with a bit of bacon and feta and…voile, a toothsome grain salad.

Whether you consider this a healthy meal or death on a plate is determined by what camp you sit it. I hope we can all agree, at least, that this Farro and Pomegranate Salad is damn tasty. Mmmm…

p.s. I love the pop of the pomegranate seeds in my mouth when I eat this salad!


Farro and Pomegranate Salad

Chewy farro flecked with pomegranate seeds, feta, bacon and almonds makes a colorful and hearty main-course salad. The salty-tart flavor of preserved lemons adds a unique twist.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked farro, cooled
  • 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup toasted almonds (or pistachios), roughly chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped preserved lemons
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup good-quality olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 strips crisp bacon, crumbled

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine farro, pomegranate seeds, feta, cilantro, almonds, and preserved lemon. Drizzle with vinegar and olive oil and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need salt due to the salty feta and lemon). Add bacon just before serving so it remains crisp.

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Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese

This Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese elevates a humble vegetable to new heights.

A blow of crunchy Celery Salad

Sometimes, I can’t help but equate my never-ending search for the perfect Bed and Breakfast purchase to online dating.  I start out searching for geographic desirability (location is key), then I’ll notice a photo that sparks my interest,  maybe smile a bit when reading the “bio” – ocean views,  fireplaces, large owner’s quarters, commercial kitchen – only to be disappointed when faced with the reality.    I found another Inn for sale this week in an ideal location along the Mendocino coast, only to be told by my broker that, according to the financials, it’s most likely a “lifestyle B&B” (read:  not making significant income).  This is the equivalent in the online dating world to “still lives with his mother.”  Sigh.

Enough daydreaming for today, Julie.  Back to the monotonous suburban daily grind that is slowing sucking away my soul – and the safe harbor of happiness called my kitchen.   This is another recipe from Joshua McFadden’s cookbook, Six Seasons.  I love that he takes humble, quotidian vegetables, like carrots and, in this case, celery, and gives them a starring role like in this crunchy celery-centric salad.


Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese

A crisp, refreshing salad that pairs well with cold poached salmon or cold roast chicken.


Ingredients

  • 8-10 celery stalks (depending on size), leaves reserved, tough fibers peeled off, sliced on an angle, ¼ inch thick
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped toasted almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. mild blue cheese, crumbled
  • 4 Tablespoons Good quality olive oil

Directions

  1. Soak sliced celery pieces in a bowl of ice water for about 20 minutes to heighten crispness. Strain, pat dry, and place in a dry bowl (I dried out the same bowl).
  2. Add the celery leaves, dates, almonds, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss together. Season well with salt and black pepper. Adjust seasoning, if needed. At the blue cheese and olive oil. Toss gently and adjust seasoning again, adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt or pepper as needed.
  3. Let chill for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

On a side note,  I was pleased to find my Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts featured on the Shari’s Berries site this week. Thanks for the shout out!

Carrot, Olive and Date Salad

Carrot Salad on Creme fraiche

I’m never going to eat like an Ascetic.  I will never “eat to live.”  I like the flavors too much, the textures, the history and culture imbued within a recipe, the miraculous synergy in combining disparate ingredients.  I’m in love with food magic.

I’ve started up with a personal trainer again.  A VEGAN personal trainer.  She blanched when I confessed to my culinary vices, my food blog, my ability to eat an entire pie on a long, lazy Sunday.

She has her work cut out.  I’ve decided to help a bit – just a bit – by adding a few veggie-rich meals to my unmistakably carb-heavy diet.  I need help – creative vegetable combining is not my forte (yet).  Give me flour, sugar and butter and I’ll whip you up something crave-worthy.  Give me a head of cabbage and I’ll probably make coleslaw.

That’s where my most recent purchase comes in – Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.  If this first recipe is any indication, I’m. In. Love.

Carrots, Olives and Dates? Who would have guessed – absolute food magic.


Carrot, Olive and Date Salad

I wish I could claim this as my own creation, but alas, it's not. This is a slightly adapted version of Joshua McFadden's recipe and so much more than the sum of its parts.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rainbow carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Urfa Chili
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Nicoise or other nice black olives
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Castelvetrano or other nice green olives
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons white Modena Vinegar (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ cup lightly packed roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • Shaved Parmesan

Directions

  1. If the carrots are large, split them lengthwise. Cut them on a sharp angle so you have angled ¼-inch thick carrot pieces. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, combine a bit of olive oil, ½ cup water, Aleppo pepper, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add the carrots. Cook, uncovered, until the carrots are just crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain carrots and cool slightly.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine olives, dates and carrots. Toss with vinegar. Taste and adjust with salt, black pepper, Aleppo pepper and vinegar until the flavor is super vibrant (you know you’ve hit it when you says “oh wow!”). Add parsley and a splash of good quality olive oil and toss again.
  3. On a large platter, smear crème fraiche in a round, flat, circle. Pile salad on top, leaving a bit of crème visible. Garnish with shaved parmesan and a grind or two of black pepper.

Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad

Asian Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad

Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad

A message for the single women out there…written with the first line of online dating profiles:

Hello, glad you stopped by. Let me begin by answering the question that is undoubtedly on your mind: No, you are not dreaming. Please ask me and I would be glad to tell you all. Dating online can be an ominous thing.   For those of you saying, “Bonnie looking for her Clyde,” they were horrible humans.

I have decided to experience life instead of hiding myself away. Nomadic at heart, having called Chicago, LA, NYC, and a few cities in the SF Bay area home at some point in my life. I’ll be back in the states soon from a winter in Costa Rica. A new beginning that’s where I’m at, a deep breath, ah, ok. I hate these boxes. I recently learned there are 45 different styles of tacos available in my city and I’m looking for an adventuresome woman who is interested to check out a few of these with me. I just heard about this from a friend. Hello, a new experience. When I delve into something I give it my all.

Bragging about oneself is not my forte. I am a fun, athletic guy who’s always interested in learning new things and meeting new people. I am driven, goal oriented and run my own business. I’m a responsible and dependable guy with a great sense of humor. One of the last good guys. Clark Kent with an edge. When I’m not sculpting scale models of Machu Picchu onto the head of a pin, I’m saving the plankton in the Great Barrier Reef and developing a serum that will rid the world of cleft palates.

Run like Hell.

Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad
Serves 2
Juice of ½ lime
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. honey
1 T. soy sauce
¼- ½ jalapeno finely chopped (depending on your heat preference)
½ seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
4 oz. rice noodles
Red chili paste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine lime juice, sesame oil, honey and soy sauce. Add cucumber and jalapeno, toss and set aside.
  3. Heat a bit of oil in an oven-proof pan. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and sear both sides until browned. Move pan into oven and roast until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Let chicken rest and slice.
  4. Cook rice noodles as directed on the package, drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. Divide the noodles, chicken and cucumbers between two plates. Drizzle with remaining cucumber dressing. Garnish with red chili paste.

A-tisket, A-tasket

source: persnickety palate

source: persnickety palate

Today, I received my inaugural CSA basket from our local farmer Donna and spent my first hour at home this evening “breaking it down” for the remainder of the week – I’m trying for no waste/no spoilage.

What I got:
Asian Pears
Cucumber
Satsuma Plums
Zucchini
Purple Beans
Dragon Beans
Spring Mix
Valencia Oranges
Baby Spinach
Celery
Swiss Chard
Green Onions
Basil

What I did with it:
I made a huge salad for tomorrow’s lunch with a combination of baby spinach and spring mix and added cucumber, celery, green onions and some torn basil. To that, I added a few of my nectarines, fresh from my tree.

I tossed the purple beans with sesame oil, soy and a little green curry paste and oven- roasted them.  The dragon beans, which seemed big and tough to me, just needed about 10-12 minutes of steaming and a sprinkling of white truffle salt.  As I write this, I’m eating them chilled, dipped in white bean hummus – delish.

I sliced the Swiss chard in a chiffonade and sautéed it with some chopped green onions and garlic in a little olive oil and finished it with a sprinkling of salt.

My plans for the zucchini, which I’m hoping will keep for a few days, is a Greek inspired grain salad – perhaps farro,  with shredded zucchini, tomatoes, feta, oil cured black olives, green onions, fresh dill, mint and squeeze of lemon juice.