Golden Beet and Shiitake Farrotto

farrotto tf

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When you switch out the rice with farro in this risotto-style dish, you end up with farrotto. Like rice, the farro grains steep and simmer in stock, but without the nonstop requirement of stirring with rice. The difference is that farro has a hearty chewy texture, never succumbing to mushiness. Each nutty whole wheat grain maintains its shape, exuding earthy wholesomeness. You can’t help but feel healthy when you eat it.

Farro has an ancient pedigree, originating in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Also known as emmer, and compared to spelt, farro is a species of wheat, high in fiber and rich in protein and B vitamins. It’s delicious in salads, pilafs, breads, soups and stews. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

Farro with Golden Beets and Shiitake Mushrooms 

Carrot and rutabagas are good substitutes for the beets. Serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
6 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 medium yellow beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the farro and cook, stirring, until slightly toasted, about 1 minute. Pour in the stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender but chewy, 20 to 25 minutes.
While the farro is cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beets and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until crisp tender and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet. Add the mushrooms in one layer and cook over medium-high heat until softened and slightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes.
To serve, toss farro with the beets and parlsey. If using feta, sprinkle over the farro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Farmers Market Chicken Dinner

chicken platter tastefood

Grilled Chicken, Garlic Scapes, Potatoes, Lambs Lettuce, Lemon, Roasted Garlic

A trip to the farmers market yielded the ingredients to assemble this spring dinner. It didn’t require much: one chicken, a bunch of green garlic, potatoes and lambs lettuce. A good glugg of olive oil, a head of garlic, and a lemon plucked from our tree was all that was needed to bring this meal together. And a skillet and a grill.

chicken skillet

Green garlic is young garlic and resembles thick spring onions. Its flavor is buttery and milder than garlic cloves, and it’s delicious roasted and braised. In this preparation, the bulbs and white stalks were tucked under the chicken which nestled in a skillet surrounded by potatoes and the garlic head. The green garlic tips were chopped and tumbled with lemon zest, oil and a pinch of sea salt, for a bright gremolata garnish – and no waste. Lambs lettuce is mild and pleasantly nutty and best simply dressed so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavor. I dressed it lightly with oil and lemon and scattered it around the carved chicken. And the roasted head of garlic? Squeezed into the pan juices for deep flavor and a rich final touch.

garlic scapes

Roasted Chicken Platter with Potatoes, Garlic Scapes and Lemony Lambs Lettuce

The beauty of this recipe is its ease of preparation and one-skillet method. The veggies and chicken roast together – either on the grill or in the oven. Other vegetables such as onions and carrots may easily be substituted. Serves 4.

1 (4 pound) chicken
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound garlic scapes
1 pound small yukon gold potatoes, halved crosswise
1 large head of garlic, outer layers of skin removed, top trimmed by 1/2 inch to expose the cloves.
1 untreated lemon, halved

Salad:
6 ounces lambs lettuce (mache)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. If you have time, season the chicken all over including inside the cavity with salt. Place in a bowl or on a rimmed dish and refrigerate uncovered for a few hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Drizzle and coat with olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
2. Prepare a grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (about 400°F/ 200°C). If using an oven, preheat to 400°F.
3. Snip off the green stalks of the garlic scapes and set aside. Place the bulbs, the potatoes and garlic head in a large bowl. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, then dump the vegetables into a large cast iron skillet (or grill-proof baking dish). Nestle the chicken into the center of the vegetables, breast-side up. Roast over indirect medium-high heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting occasionally with pan juices and rotating the pan from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for 15 minutes.
4. While the chicken rests, squeeze the roasted garlic into the pan and gently mix around to combine with the juices and vegetables.
5. Finely chop the green garlic  tips and place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
6. Place the lambs lettuce in a large bowl. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Add to the lambs lettuce and toss to coat.
7. Carve the chicken into serving pieces and arrange on a large serving platter. Arrange the roasted potatoes and garlic scapes around the chicken. Scatter the lambs lettuce around the chicken and vegetables. Spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken and vegetables and sprinkle with the gremolata.

Crispy Prosciutto

Crispy Parma tastefood

Do you like crispy bacon? Then try making crispy prosciutto. Oven baking slices of prosciutto (or any other dry cured ham) transforms supple ham slices into crunchy shards ready for munching or crumbling over salads, soups, pastas and vegetables. Baking dehydrates the meat, concentrating its flavor and intensifying its saltiness while cooking off excess fat. The resulting wizened slivers of dried pork add a punch of flavor to almost anything and taste great as simple finger food. I call these salty snippets crack-croutons because they are highly addictive and intensely flavorful. 

Crispy Parma Slices Lynda Balslev

Oven baking is a great way to use up any leftover parma, coppa or prosciutto in your fridge – if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers. If not, the method is so easy and quick it justifies shopping for a whole package to open and pop into the oven. And you don’t have to spring for the expensive stuff – any thinly sliced dry cured ham will do. I often use German prosciutto from Trader Joe’s that’s half the price of the Italian equivalent. 

crispy parma cru Lynda Balslev

To crisp the ham, arrange the slices in one layer, without overlapping, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the ham stay in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then break into shards. The crispy ham will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week – but I promise it will be long gone by then.

Five ways to use crispy prosciutto:
1. Scatter over mixed salads.
2. Sprinkle over creamy soups and chowders.
3. Garnish eggs and frittatas.
4. Crumble the shards and use to season cooked vegetables.
4. Add to cheesy pasta dishes and homemade pizzas before serving.

Grilled Broccoli Rabe

broccoli rabe tastefood

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a brassica, or mustard plant. It resembles skinny leafy broccoli with narrow stems, spiky leaves and tiny green buds that resemble miniature broccoli heads. Slightly bitter and peppery, rapini fries up well in a skillet with robust ingredients such as garlic and red chili flakes – which is how I often prepare it. Yesterday I tried a different method and tossed the slim stems with olive oil and salt, then gave them a good char on the grill. Not only was it super easy to prepare, the charred flavor was a perfect match with the assertive rapini. I served it as an accompaniment to a whole chicken I roasted in a skillet on the grill. While the chicken rested, I cooked the rabe. Then, before serving, I drizzled a few tablespoons of the chicken pan juices over the greens. While chicken pan juices are not a necessary addition, I highly recommend it.

Grilled Broccoli Rabe

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

1 pound broccoli rabe
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Place the broccoli rabe in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Lightly season with salt. Toss to coat. Carefully place the broccoli rabe on the grill, perpendicular to the grates. Cook with the lid closed until bright green in color and charred in spots, about 4 minutes, turning once or twice with tongs. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm.

Not Very Easter Lamb

lamb roast

Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Roasted Vegetables and Yogurt Sauce

In honor of Easter – and Spring – I share a recipe with you for grilled lamb with 2 marinade options. Normally I smear my lamb with a heady concoction of  North African spices, which is not your traditional Easter roast, mind you, but more like Easter on  holiday – a spring fling for serious bouts of wanderlust. The other marinade is more traditional with olive oil, mustard and rosemary. Either way, the method remains the same. It’s best to let the lamb marinate for as long as possible, preferably overnight – or at least for 6 hours.

Grilled Lamb with 2 Marinades:

Serves 6 to 8.

1 (3 to 4 pound) boned leg of lamb, butterflied
Salt

Dijon Marinade:
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

North African Marinade:
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Season the lamb with salt. Whisk the Dijon or the North African marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Make small incisions in the fat and meat of the lamb. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, massaging it into the meat and folds with your fingers. Place the lamb in a rimmed baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

One hour before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature. If grilling, prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the lamb for 10 minutes over direct heat to sear, skin-side down, turning once. Move to indirect heat and grill, covered, turning once or twice, until medium-rare (a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part will read 130 F), 20 to 30 minutes. If roasting, place lamb in a roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 425 F. oven, skin-side up, for about 30 minutes for medium-rare, turning once. Finish under a broiler, skin side up, for a few minutes to brown meat. Allow lamb to rest for 10 minutes, loosely covered with foil, before carving.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and Cream

flourless chocolate cake tastefoodA tiny sliver of this luscious gluten-free cake goes a long way. It’s perfect for a Passover dinner or any celebration worthy of an intense chocolatey finale. Choose the best quality dark chocolate you can lay your hands on, because it makes all the difference. The gently sugared cream and naturally sweetened strawberries nicely offset all of the chocolatey goodness which encourages you to eat more – not that any encouragement is necessary.

Glazed Flourless Chocolate Cake
Slightly adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe
Serves 12.

Cake:
12 ounces dark high quality chocolate (70-72%)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated
12 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
4.5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped, plus extra for grating
Whipped cream
Strawberries

Heat the oven to 350°F (180 C). Butter a 9-inch diameter springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder and tap out the excess. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil to prevent leakage.
Combine the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or heat-proof bowl placed over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
Beat the egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a large bowl. Thoroughly clean and dry mixing bowl and whisk attachment.
Fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolks. Stir in the vanilla.
In the clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar until medium-firm peaks form. Fold the whites into the chocolate in 3 additions. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake until the top of the cake is slightly puffed and cracked and a knife inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. Heat the cream and syrup in a small saucepan just until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until smooth.
Gently press down on the top of the cake to even its thickness. Remove the pan side and invert the cake onto a plate. Remove and discard the parchment. Pour the glaze over the center of the cake. Spread the glaze over the top and down the sides of the cake, using a flat icing spatula to smooth the glaze. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 10 minutes.
Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

rhubarb sage tastefood

They say what grows together goes together and that certainly applies to this springtime compote. Green rhubarb stalks, flowering sage leaves and spring lemons comprised the latest bag of loot I came home with from the farmers’ market. The green rhubarb was stunning, it’s puckery astringency melding beautifully with bright citrus and, yes, sage leaves. Serve this compote straight as it is or add a drizzle of heavy cream. Vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be bad either.

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

Serves – 2 to 3 (or never enough depending whom you ask)

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Combine the rhubarb, sugar and sage in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and simmer over low heat until rhubarb softens, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.. Remove from heat and discard the sage leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Cool. Serve garnished with lemon zest.

 

Black Lentil Salad with Asparagus, Kale and Egg

black lentils bowl tastefood

Black lentils are the star of this salad. These tiny pellets are nicknamed Beluga lentils since they resemble caviar. They remain firm when cooked, which makes them a great addition to salads, and their shiny blackness provides vivid contrast to colorful vegetables. Like their brown or green brethren, black lentils are a superb source of iron, fiber, protein, folate and magnesium. Plus, they are easy on the wallet. Not bad for a little legume.

black lentils salad tastefood

Black Lentil Salad with Asparagus, Kale, Egg

For a larger salad, arrange the lentils on a bed of mixed greens or arugula.
Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

1 1/4 cups black lentils
3 cups water
Salt
6 to 8 thin asparagus
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 red or green spring onions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
2 hard boiled egg yolks, crumbled
1 red jalapeno pepper, minced
1 1/2 cups shredded kale
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup cilantro

Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no small stones. Combine the lentils and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 25 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl.
While the lentils are cooking, blanch the asparagus. Bring a wide pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut off the tips and slice the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. Reserve all of it.
Whisk the garlic, oil, lemon juice, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper in a small bowl. Add to the lentils and toss to coat. Add the asparagus tips and stalks, the spring onions, 1 crumbled egg yolk, the jalapeno, kale, parsley and cilantro. Gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning – you might need more salt. If desired, douse with a little extra oil. Transfer the salad to a platter or divide among serving plates. Garnish with the remaining crumbled egg yolk and serve.

Rosemary and Porcini Crusted Lamb Loin Chops

Lamb tf

A rub of crushed dried porcini mushrooms and finely chopped rosemary creates an umami-rich crust for lamb. I use a food processor to blitz the mushrooms before continuing to chop them by hand with the rosemary, resulting in a coarse rub. A spice grinder will create a finer crust.

Lamb cru tf

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Lamb Loin Chops

Serves 4.

8 lamb loin chops, about 1 inch thick
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup finely ground dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Combine 2 tablespoons oil and the garlic in a bowl. Smear all over the lamb. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Thirty minutes before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator. Combine the mushrooms and rosemary in a small bowl. Coat both sides of the lamb with the rub. Let stand at room temperature, 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the lamb without overcrowding. Cook until brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to oven. Bake until cooked to desired doneness, 10 to 15 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Grilled Pizza with Baby Kale, Broccolini and Chilies

broccoli kale pizza tastefood

Do you have a grill? Do you love pizza? Then look no further for a couple of  techniques that will result in delicious homemade pizza. I grill pizzas all year, no matter the weather. It keeps the heat outside on a warm day, gives me an excuse to fire up the grill on a cold day, and consistently results in crispy, chargrilled homemade pizza which is the next best thing to having my own pizza oven.

There are 2 basic methods I use to grill a pizza. The first, and easiest in my opinion, is to use a pizza stone. I have a Weber pizza stone that’s designed to fit right on my grill, but you can use any pizza stone that fits. Just preheat the stone over direct heat while you fire up the grill, and go about preparing  your pizza. When the grill is nice and hot, slide the pizza onto the stone. Close the grill and cook the pizza until the crust is browned, the cheese is melty and bubbly, and the toppings are cooked to your desired doneness, about 15 minutes.

If you want more char and blistering to your crust, the second technique is to grill the pizza directly on the grates. In this case, you should begin to grill the crust before adding the toppings. Lightly oil the rolled out crust, then place over direct heat, oiled-side down. Grill until the crust  is nicely browned on the bottom and releases easily from the grates, about 2 minutes. Brush the un-cooked side of the crust with oil then flip the crust over and add the toppings to the top. Close the lid and grill until the cheese melts and the toppings wilt, about 5 minutes.

This was the pizza I made over the weekend using the pizza stone method. I often make white pizzas, which means without tomato sauce, and top it with garlic oil, cheese and fresh veggies from the farmers market. It’s a hit with the whole family and great way to get everyone to eat their vegetables.

Grilled Pizza with Baby Kale, Broccolini and Chiles

I prefer to roll my pizza out onto a piece of parchment paper for easy maneuvering. You can skip this step and transfer the dough directly to the pizza stone if desired.  Makes one large pizza.

1 pizza crust dough (recipe below)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes (optional)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup finely grated Asiago or Pecorino cheese
1 1/2 cups broccolini florets, coarsely chopped
2 cups baby kale leaves (or spinach)
1 red jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (about 500°F) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 10 minutes.

Roll out the dough to fit the size of the pizza stone (I have a rectangular pizza stone and formed a 10 by 15-inch crust). Lay the dough on a piece of parchment. Trim the parchment to fit the contours of the pizza.

Whisk the oil, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Brush the crust with the oil. Lightly season with chili flakes, if using. Scatter half of the mozzarella and half of the Asiago over the crust. Scatter the broccolini and jalapeno over the cheese. Top with the kale. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Asiago over the kale. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill and cook until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from grill and drizzle with remaining oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

Alice Water’s Pizza Dough Recipe:

Makes enough for 2 (10 t0 12-inch) crusts

1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Stir lukewarm water and yeast together in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and the semolina. Mix well. Let stand until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Combine the remaining flour and the salt in another bowl, then add to the yeast. Add the cold water and olive oil. Mix well to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Or use a mixer with a dough hook, and knead about 5 minutes). Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides with the oil. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down, and let rise another 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal disks. Let rest 30 minutes before shaping.