Friday, October 26, 2018

Red Lentil Coconut Soup

Let’s call this post, "An Ode to Lentil Soup: The Legume That Keeps on Giving." Can you think of any other ingredient that stores in the pantry sans expiration, has just enough protein to negate additional perishable carnivorous sources, singlehandedly creates its own broth (no can of veggie or chicken stock necessary, lentil brodo is downright drinkable) and produces complex, robust, meaty flavor by way of such a humble, singular ingredient that also happens to proffer multiple varieties (red, green, puy, beluga) to choose from? 

I didn’t think so.

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks recently put forth a list called Nine Great Lentil Soups to Choose From, and oh em gee, my recipe list is set for the next two months. Made with red and yellow split lentils, the variety most traditionally used in Indian cooking as dal, this Red Lentil Coconut Soup takes on a curry quality so subtle it’s impossibly intriguing. The lentils are softly spiced with curry powder, tomato paste, ginger and silky coconut milk—hence the curry essence— but the soup is filled with bite-sized surprises: plump golden raisins, sweet carrot rounds, dots of cilantro. The result is an enthralling, belly-warming bowlful of (mostly) pantry ingredients that exudes richness without feeling heavy. In other words, the kind of meal that tastes like you labored for days, when in reality, you flung open your larder and spent 30 minutes by the stove. Plus, it allows you to summon the always gleeful proclamation of “and it’s healthy, too!” to your stunned dinning companions upon their first spoonfuls. 


Heidi’s list is riddled with intriguing, interesting soups. Persian New Year Noodle Soup is thick with egg noodles, turmeric, and dill, while Smoky Sweet Potato Lentil Tortilla Soup radiates heat from diced chipotles and rufous paprika. I urge you to check out the full list.

As for lentil varieties, each one sits in a distinct spot on the savory spectrum (green lentils are earthy and mushroom-like, dal is sweeter with pea-like essence), so a different kind of lentil can end up tasting like an entirely different ingredient. That being said, you can use them interchangeably. Don’t fret if red and yellow split lentils are not available at a grocery store near you; green or puy will work here just fine.
Red Lentil Coconut Soup (from 101 Cookbooks)
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 c yellow split peas
1 c red split lentils (masoor dal)
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used 3, but I really like carrots)
2 Tbsp fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 Tbsps curry powder
2 Tbsp butter, ghee, or coconut oil
8 scallions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp golden raisins
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (reduced fat OK)
2 tsp fine grain sea salt
One small handful cilantro, chopped

Directions:
1. Give the split peas and lentils a good rinse (until they no longer put off murky water). Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with 7 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.
2. In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don't want to burn the curry powder, just toast it. Set aside. Place the butter/oil in a pan over medium heat, add half of the green onions, the remaining ginger, and raisins. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two more.
3. Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time, if you like. Simmer longer for a thicker consistency.
4. To serve, sprinkle each bowl generously with cilantro and the remaining green onions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

I’ve had “make zucchini-banana protein muffins” on my to-do list, unchecked, for two weeks. Every time I venture into the fridge, I imagine the two requisite oblong squashes looking up at me expectantly, crestfallen when I summarily close the door in their face. I want to make them, I really do. What is it about the start of fall that demands a heavily spiced cucurbita loaf? But my craving are invariably met with a timely excuse. Yesterday I didn’t want to scrub the muffin pan, today I don’t have time to wait for them to cook. If only goodwill and an obstinate appetite could conjure my zucchini bread; no whisk, spatula, or oven required. “I don’t even need the whole thing—just a bite, one taste!” I bargain pleadingly with my fantastical bread, as my courgettes judge my laziness harshly from inside their temperature-controlled bin.

 Alas, I must’ve done something that pleased the craving gods, because lo and behold, I stumbled across Zucchini Bread Oatmeal. Are you familiar with the Food52 List called “Genius Recipes?” This brilliant baking hack belongs at top. Here, all the key elements of a loaf of zucchini bread are added to simple stovetop oats—zucchini, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla—then stirred continuously in sweet, velvety coconut milk (soy milk or almond milk make great alternatives). Chia seeds give the porridge a thick, pudding-esque texture, so you don’t feel like you are eating oatmeal so much as the just-shy-of-cooked-through inside of a muffin. Cue the Pinkberry toppings bar please, because what you spoon on top matters almost as much as the pot's contents. I chose coconut chips, pecans, and chopped dates, which added delightful sweetness and crunch to the gooey porridge. Chocolate shavings, raisins, and a drizzle of honey are other great options. I take collagen peptides, so in went those too; if you are looking for a protein boost, try swirling in a spoonful of pea protein or, at the end so it doesn’t curdle, Greek yogurt.


While I reveled in the luxuriousness of my dessert-for-breakfast, I thought of all the other treats I could hack with this formula. Carrot cake, banana bread, pumpkin loafs—all excellent contenders for the stovetop miracle. A big batch of this 10-minute single bowl whip-up will keep for a few days, just add a splash of milk before heating it in the microwave. Shocking to no one, I ate a double portion in one sitting.

Zucchini Bread Oatmeal (from Oh She Glows)
Makes 2 generous bowls

Ingredients
For the oatmeal:
1 14-oz can light coconut milk (or 1¾ cup almond or soy milk)
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed finely grated zucchini (1 medium)
2 Tbsp chia seeds
½ to 1 tsp cinnamon, to taste
Dash of ground nutmeg
1½ Tbsp pure maple syrup or 1 large ripe banana, mashed
Small pinch fine sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Topping suggestions:
Chopped pecans
Raisins or chopped pitted dates
Maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar
Cinnamon
Shaved dark chocolate
Hemp hearts
Coconut flakes

Directions:
1. Add all of the oatmeal ingredients except for the vanilla to a medium pot and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook uncovered for 7 to 9 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Adjust spices and sweetener to taste, if desired.
3. Divide the oatmeal into bowls and top with your desired toppings. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. To reheat, add the leftovers to a small pot along with a splash of coconut milk. Stir and heat over medium until heated through. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Buttermilk Farro Salad

If your first impression is that this recipe looks suspiciously similar to my Dilled, Crunchy Sweet-Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, you are not incorrect. Yes, both recipes feature a starchy carb base, buttermilk dressing, and lots of dill. However. While the corn salad conjures a chilled summer soup— sweet, drinkable and milky—this Buttermilk Farro Salad is far meatier, almost like a creamy risotto. The buttermilk, too, takes on a different function. Rather than a dribbling dressing that pools at the bottom, the liquid is slick; coating the farro just barely, luxuriously, like melted cheese.

Any likeness to richness stops there. The farro is delicately peppered with slivered late summer vegetables, impossibly refreshing in their raw, slender form. Sometimes I forget that an unaccustomed texture has the power to make a vegetable feel like an entirely different ingredient. Zucchini often gets tiresome past its mid-summer zenith, but barely-there ribbons feel completely new. Fennel is frequently braised in pursuit of its caramelized potential, but here, the wispy mandolined strips are a total breath of fresh air, like a more flavorful celery.

If you are unfamiliar with chives, do seek them out if you can—they are the cherry on top of a salad bellowing summer, though scallions are a perfectly acceptable alternative. You can probably tell that this recipe is included in my "big batch salad" list from a mile away; indeed, I made a double serving for the week, mixing in arugula, chickpeas, and hard-boiled egg for a hefty lunch.
Aside from a trip to the farmers market/grocery, this salad is essentially a pantry dish. That goes for the buttermilk too: 1 tablespoon of lemon juice stirred into 1 cup regular milk makes a quick homemade batch. As we approach the part of summer where we are reminded of its mortality (shorter days, brisker morning temperatures), the widespread “did I make the most of this season??” panic sweeps in. Inevitably, this premature nostalgia is followed by a scurry of bucket-list picnics and beach visits, so when it’s time to menu-plan, remember this salad! Consider it August, in a Tupperware.

Buttermilk Farro Salad (from 101 Cookbooks)
Serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main

Ingredients:
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped dill
½ cup chopped chives (can substitute scallions)
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
7 small radishes, sliced paper thin
3 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
1 medium head of fennel, trimmed and sliced paper thin
4 cups cooked farro, cooled to room temp
chopped chives for garnish
Arugula, chickpeas, hardboiled eggs (optional, for serving)

Directions:
1. Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board. Mash into a paste using the flat side of your knife. Place in a medium bowl or jar, then add the buttermilk and vinegar. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the herbs.

2. In a large bowl gently toss the radishes, zucchini, and fennel with the farro grains. Add 1 cup of the dressing and toss again. Let sit for ten minutes, taste, and adjust with more dressing, if needed, and salt to taste. Serve sprinkled with chives.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fava, Farro, Artichoke and Salami Salad

Joshua McFadden is the vegetable whisperer.

His cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables celebrates vegetables in such a deliberate, intuitive way that I wouldn't be surprised if McFadden had sprouted out of soil himself. Beyond seasonal cooking—which merely scratches the surface of his vegetables' potential—McFadden transports his readers along the journey of their lives. The first asparagus of spring? Raw please, but once you're in the heart of the season, best to cook through. Same goes for artichokes, and so on. Each chapter of Six Seasons commences with a specific vegetable's uncooked devising, slowing adding heat and novel flavors as the weeks go on. For example, Raw Asparagus Salad turns into Asparagus, Nettle, and Green Garlic Frittata, which turns into Asparagus, Garlic Chives, and Pea Shoots with an Egg. Each and every vegetable is treated in this progression.


Joshua McFadden is the vegetable whisperer, and after owning Six Seasons for a month I feel fluent in his language.

You might think that this produce pedestal would go hand and hand with elitist recipes, but surprisingly, it's quite the contrary. McFadden values simplicity and staples. You'll scarcely find more than a handful of salt, pepper, bulb, olive oil, and citrus or vinegar—maybe some herbs, as well—dressing up the main ingredient. Therefore, it's his focus on perfecting these aforementioned accoutrements that make each recipe nonpareil.  Preparing farro? Toast the grains in a smattering of quality everyday EVOO to realize its true nutty undertones. Mincing scallions? Soak them in an ice bath while chopping other ingredients to temper their oniony bite. Using the same tricks repeatedly throughout the book helps ingrain them into your memory—I doubt I'll add raw scallions to any dish moving forward without an ice bath first.


McFadden also loves creating "tension" in his recipes—that is, opposing flavors and textures to construct depth in a dish. In this Fava, Farro, Artichoke and Salami Salad, earthy farro contrasts with the vivacity of fresh herbs. Cubed meaty salami adds peppery pinguidity to mellow fava beans and artichokes. Is this another agreeable spring farro salad or a deconstructed Italian club? Tension = ruminative eating. Chew on in it for a bit.


I combined two of McFadden's recipes into one here. He has a separate salami, farro and herb salad for both fresh favas and artichokes, but because I was so excited for the spring arrival of both ingredients, I married them. Don't fret if you can't get these ingredients fresh, though. Pre-cooked favas and jarred artichokes work just fine.

Fava, Farro, Artichoke and Salami Salad (from Six Seasons)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 ½ lbs fava beans in their pods
4 artichoke quarters, poached or jarred, chopped (Trader Joe’s jarred grilled artichokes are out of this world)
2 cups cooked and cooled farro (recipe below)
¼ lb salami, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices and then into ¼-inch dice
½ bunch scallions, trimmed (including ½ inch off the green tops), thinly sliced on an angle, soaked in ice water for 20 minutes, and drained well
Red wine vinegar
¼ tsp dried chile flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pecorino fresco, cut into ¼ inch-thick slices and then into ¼ inch dice (optional)

Directions:
1. Shell, blanch and peel the favas.
2. Put the farro, favas, artichokes, salami, pecorino (if using) and scallions in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup vinegar, the chile flakes, 1 teaspoon of salt and lots of twists of black pepper, and toss. Let the salad sit for about 5 minutes so the vinegar soaks into the farro.
3. Add the parsley and mint and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Drizzle on a glug of olive oil, toss, and taste again—adjust as needed. Serve at room temperature.

Toasted Farro
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
½ teaspoon dried chile flakes
1 cup farro
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:
1. Put a nice glug of oil into a large skillet that has a lid and heat over medium heat. Add smashed garlic and chile flakes and cook slowly to toast garlic so it's beginning to get soft, fragrant, and nicely golden brown, about 3 minutes.
2. Add farro and cook over medium heat, stirring more or less constantly so grains toast evenly, for 3 to 5 minutes. They will darken slightly and become quite fragrant.
3. Add water, bay leaf, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, adjust heat to a nice simmer, and cook until farro is tender but not so much that it has "exploded" and popped fully open--it will be mushy if cooked that long. Depending on your farro, this could take 15 to 30 minutes or even a bit longer.
4. Drain farro well. If you're using farro warm, you're all set. If you want to use it cold, such as in a salad, dump it onto a baking sheet, toss with a tbsp of olive oil, and spread it out to cool.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sumac Chicken with Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Where have you been, woman? I know, I know! I have not posted a new recipe in nearly 2 months, and the one below is paired with a single measly photo. So sorry but I’ve spent the past 8 weeks on a sun-drenched tropical island, taking a vacation from technology and clutter to idly wander white sand beaches, stopping to eat the occasional coconut or papaya should it happen to bounce my way. Sike! I’ve been trudging through this miserable Nor’easter-heaped sludge Spring with all you fools, just busy busy busy with the other writing I do (aka the one that is paid). 
I’ve still been cooking up a storm, of course. Jam-packed days mean less involved dinners, and I have fallen in love with the sheet pan method. For the better part of an hour, vegetables and proteins are heaped together on a single wide sheet pan as I go about cleaning/laundry/yoga in my living room. Forty-five minutes later, presto! A deeply roasted, bronzed and bubbling denouement— that looks and tastes as if I’ve been slaving away for the past week— materializes right before my tired eyes.

The namesake of Sumac Chicken with Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts is definitely the winsome ingredient here. Sumac, a tart, lemony spice featured in Middle Eastern cooking, is humbled with a pinch of brown sugar and smoky paprika. Both the chicken and vegetables get roasted in this sprightly rub, then finished with a lovely drizzle of fresh herbs and lemon juice. The chicken is roasted bone-in and skin-on, giving it that moist, fall-off-the-bone consistency of an expertly done rotisserie. It took my husband and I three days to finish the pan’s offerings (I doubled the recipe), and the flavors only seemed to intensify every day that passed.

A quick note on chicken: as someone who’s been a skinless, boneless chicken breast devotee my whole life, the transition to skin-on, bone-in cuts of both dark meat and light was a bit intimidating. But the fat content of these cuts is nothing to fear here. In fact, its where all of your flavor and succulence will come from. If you cannot bear the thought of drumsticks and thighs, chicken breast is fine, just make sure to follow the aforementioned preparation so it doesn’t dry out. However, I really liked using a mixture of dark and light meat. I was also blown away by the cost-efficiency of buying these cuts: at Trader Joe’s, a “family pack” (2 breasts and 4 drumsticks, all organic) was only $2.99/lb. You can also buy an entire chicken and have the butcher counter cut it up for you, which will give you a nice variety of all these pieces.

Sumac Chicken with Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts (altered slightly from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive or avocado oil, divided
1 Tbsp sumac
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb cauliflower florets
1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
2 lbs chicken thighs/drumsticks/bone-in, skin-on breast
1 small lemon, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, cut into ¾ inch wedges
1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro; preferably, a mix
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 
  2. Combine 2 Tbsp oil with sumac, ¾ tsp salt, brown sugar, paprika, and red pepper in a medium bowl. Place cauliflower and Brussels sprouts on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add half of oil mixture; toss to coat. 
  3. Add chicken pieces and lemon slices to pan. Rub remaining oil mixture over chicken. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir vegetables. Sprinkle onion wedges over pan. Bake for 20 more minutes, or until chicken is done. 
  4. Combine remaining 1 Tbsp oil, parsley, and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Spoon parsley mixture evenly over chicken and vegetables. Serve with warm whole-wheat couscous, if desired. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pan-seared Sirloin with Chimichurri

I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or an iron deficiency trying to communicate with me, but I’ve recently found myself intensely craving steak. Not to mention that I’ve finally learned how to cook it exactly how I order at a restaurant (medium rare), and it didn't involve setting off the smoke alarm (let’s hope that was a one time occurrence) or a 2-day bout of food poisoning from undercooking. My vegetarian-leaning self has finally learned how to flawlessly prepare bovine meat, and now, I can’t get enough; specifically, this Pan-seared Sirloin with Chimichurri

I’ve shied away from learning how to cook steak in the past—as if because I rarely ate it I wasn’t worthy of knowing how to prepare it—assuming I was inherently set up to fail. Previously, I’d nervously overcook a piece of meat, making sure I paired it with a flavorful sauce to cover up any of my missteps. Only with a little bit of research did I figure out a few essentials for proper steak cooking. How simple the basic principles are!

1. Temperature matters. Bringing steak to room temperature an hour before cooking ensures optimal heat penetration to the middle.
2. Seasoning matters. A generous rub of salt, pepper, and olive oil will suffice.
3. Flipping matters. Turning the steak every minute promotes an even sear.
4. Resting matters the most. Letting the steak sit for five minutes, plus half the cook-time, lets it finish cooking properly after being removed from the heat.

The last step is arguably the most important because there’s nothing more disappointing than an overcooked slab of beef. Trust me on this one—the steak needs to sit to finish cooking through.

Adding to this enthusiasm was my discovery of Piedmontese heritage beef at the Union Square Greenmarket, produced by Stony Mountain Ranch (full market schedule here). Although Stony Mountain Ranch’s cattle is raised in Pennsylvania, the breed is originally from the Piedmont region of Italy, known for having the best beef in the country due to its supreme succulence and super lean disposition. This desirable combination is a result of the cows’ genetics: Piedmontese cattle naturally carry a unique gene that reduces fat yet improves tenderness. And while the beef is genetically lower in total fat than other breeds, it also has the highest percentage of good polyunsaturated fats within that total fat. Think omega-3s like DPA and DHA. On top of that, its exclusively grass-fed. If looking for a healthy breed, you’ve found your guy.

The quick and easy chimichurri sauce hails for Gjelina, one of my favorite cookbooks for condiments and vegetables. For me, it’s essential for a chimichurri to have the right oil to vinegar ratio—not too slick, not too tart—and this one delivers exceptionally, dotted with spices that accent the grassiness of the herbs.

Pan-seared Sirloin with Chimichurri
Makes 1 ½ cup chimichurri

Ingredients:
Grass-fed, tender cut of steak (i.e. rib-eye, tenderloin, porterhouse, T-bone, skirt steak, top sirloin, filet mignon. Budget 6 ounces, or a little more than 1/3 lb, per person)

1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ shallot, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (can use less if desired)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground lack pepper
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Directions:

1. Make the chimichurri. In a medium bowl, combine the cilantro, parsley, oregano, paprika, shallot, and olive oil and stir. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Just before serving, add red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Make the steak. Heat a hot cast iron pan with oil, and follow the 4 steps above! A medium rare steak should cook for 6 minutes (flipping every minute), and rest for 8 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas

As I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram last week (New Years resolution: do less of that), I came across this quote. “People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and New Year, when what matters is what they eat between New Year and Christmas.” It got me thinking about my own past behavior, namely, gauging myself with sweets and alcohol in that coveted vacation week—only to go to the other extreme, a juice cleanse, in the days after as an attempt to negate my poor eating choices.

This type of seesaw eating is not only unhealthy, but also extremely anxiety provoking. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve curtailed these periods of “extremes” for a healthy balance somewhere in the middle. I try to mostly eat a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, focused on ample vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. I generally stay away from excess sugar. When I indulge, I don’t get hung up on it. I treat that as “sometimes” behavior, and move on.

Apropos to this mindset, my early January diet won’t be a frantic attempt to reverse any immoderation from the past week. Rather, it will be a reset back to middle ground; looking at the future instead of dwelling in the past. This Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas was my first recipe of 2018, and I’ve been eating it with gusto all week long.

Shocker to nobody: I don’t think I’ve ever met a farro salad with roasted vegetables I didn’t like. That being said, the number of times I’ve encountered one which wildly supersedes its predecessors is scant. This is one of those rare occasions, and the winning ingredient is most surprising. It’s… the onions?!

Here, while the farro cooks, finely chopped red onion is quick-pickled in a simple brine of vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Then, the entire concoction—brine and onion bits—is poured into the salad for a lovely acidic tang that hits on all seasoning notes. Without this dressing, the grain and squash combination could easily feel too earthy, even dull. But the pickled onion adds sprightly vim, enhanced further by dots of crunchy pepitas and silky, heavenly ricotta salada.



To the original recipe I added Brussels sprouts and garbanzo beans, and cut back on the olive oil and crumbed cheese per my personal preference. These changes are reflected below. While I encourage you to consume this salad upon completion, I will say it is the kind of dish that tastes even better with time. I’m on my fourth day in a row of eating it for lunch, and the flavors have never been better.

Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas (tweaked slightly from Smitten Kitchen)
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cup semi-pearled farro (the kind that cooks in 20-25 minutes)
1/3 cup toasted pepitas
1/3 cup ricotta salata (omit to make vegan)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or red/white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
½ small red onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Peel squash, then halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut squash into approximately 3/4-inch chunks. Coat one large or two small baking sheets with 2 tablespoons oil total. Spread squash (and Brussels, if using) out in single layer on sheet. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until pieces are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. While squash is roasting, cook farro in a large pot of simmering salted water until the grains are tender but chewy, about 30 minutes or per package directions. Drain and cool slightly.

4. While squash/Brussels are roasting and farro is simmering, in a small bowl, whisk together sherry vinegar, water, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and granulated sugar until sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in onion/shallot; it will barely be covered by vinegar mixture but don’t worry. Cover and set in fridge until needed; 30 minutes is ideal but less time will still make a lovely, lightly pickled bulb.

5. In a large bowl, mix together roasted veggies, farro, red onion and its vinegar brine, the crumbled cheese, pepitas, and garbanzos, if using. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings (you might want to add more vinegar). Salad keeps in the fridge for up to a week.