Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Beans

I frequently trade recipes and little tastes of food with my co-worker, Brooke. Whenever I’ve made a soup or have extras of a dish I’ve made, I’ll pack up a container for her to try and she does the same. One morning, she brought me a container that held a delicious recipe of Israeli couscous, bacon, garbanzo beans, and Brussels sprouts. It looked delicious. By mid-morning, it was calling to me louder than my usual yogurt, so despite the hour, I heated it up and ate it. It was perfect, the bacon just slightly flavored the couscous and Brussels sprouts, which were cooked perfectly. It was so delicious, I was sorry there wasn’t more! I knew this could be an addicting dish, so one night I recreated it for dinner, with the basic recipe outlined, but with some changes based on what I had on hand.

I first off substituted farro for the couscous. I talked a little bit about farro in this post. Farro is my new favorite grain; it is a little larger in size than barley and it is chewy without an overpowering flavor. I made a pot of that, steamed some Brussels sprouts until they were just tender, and fried up some bacon with a little bit of shallots. I mixed everything together in a large bowl, added some butter beans, and topped it with some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top (or not if you prefer). The flavors meld together and to me, was comfort (and ease) in a bowl in a chilly winter night!

Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Beans
Here is the basic recipe, but you can always make more or less based on how many people are at your dinner table.

2 slices of raw bacon, diced
2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
1 ½ cup Brussels sprouts, halved
½ cup butter beans or another neutral bean (garbanzo, cannellini, Great Northern, e.g.), drained
2 cups farro, cooked*

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat and when warm, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Add the shallots to the still warmed skillet and drain when soft. Safe about ½ tablespoon of bacon grease, discard the rest.

3. While cooking the bacon, steam the Brussels sprouts for a few minutes, to soften. Set aside when done.

4. In a large mixing bowl, add the farro, bacon and onion, and beans (unless the beans came from the fridge, at room temperature the farro will warm them). Add the bacon grease and mix. Serve with or without freshly grated parmesan cheese.

*The easiest way to cook farro is to cook it like pasta. In a pan, heat water and bring to a boil. Add one cup of farro and cook until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Check on it occasionally to stir and make sure it isn’t burning. This makes roughly 3 cups of cooked farro.

Roasted Roots

The farmer’s market has been relegated to indoors and their crops of lettuce, tomatoes, corn, and basil have been made way for the roots: carrots, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes (white and sweet), Brussels sprouts, parsnips, beets, and leeks. From October to March, you can find me roasting some combination of root vegetables at least once a week, the variety based on whatever is on sale or what looks good in the bins. Even cauliflower and eggplant take on a different flavor when roasted. With a little bit of olive oil, a dash of Kosher salt, a grind of pepper, and perhaps a small sprinkle of thyme or another herb, the veggies turn out to be crunchy, sweet, and melt in your mouth.

I once heard a tip to roast your vegetables before making a soup instead of sauteing in the pot. Last weekend, I thawed out some homemade chicken broth and chicken I had stored in the freezer, put some cut up carrots, leeks, and celery on a cookie sheet with a little bit of oil and roasted them until they were dark and flavorful. Maybe it was the homemade broth, or maybe I was just lucky that afternoon, but it turned out to be one of the best pots of soup I had made in a long time. I will definitely roast veggies for soup from now on!

The following aren’t so much recipes, but an outline on how I roast my veggies, but you can select from what you like or desire. These are baseline basic, how I like them, but there is a cookbook by Vermont author, Andrea Chesman, called Recipes from the Root Cellar. This is a great book to use when I’m looking for something a bit beyond the basic!

This was Sunday's roasted roots!

Roasted Roots
This is a rough sketch of what I roast each weekend. Adding the onion or shallots and garlic definitely adds additional zip and flavor.

• Carrots
• Parsnips
• Fresh garlic, cloves cut in half
• Shallots or a small onion, cut into pieces
• Olive oil
• Salt (I prefer Kosher)
• Freshly ground pepper
• Dried thyme or another herb, if desired

Cut vegetables into large pieces and add to a baking dish. Add a little bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven. Cook until veggies are soft, yet brown, and serve.

Brussels Sprout “Hash”
This is so easy and delicious and can made for a dinner for one or ten. Crispy leeks with crispy Brussels sprouts, it’s the best! You can do the proportions to your taste.

Brussels sprouts
• Leeks
• Olive oil
• Salt (I prefer Kosher)
• Pepper

Gently slice the Brussels sprouts thinly and add them to a non-stick baking pan. Add leeks, a little bit of olive oil, mix, and top with salt and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees, stirring occasionally, until everything is brown and crispy.

Sweet Potato Fries
These are the best! Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, these go with everything, from meatloaf to fish and everything in between.

Take two washed sweet potatoes (leave the skins on), cut in half lengthwise, and cut into wedges. Place on a cookie sheet and add a little bit of olive oil and toss. Bake at 375 degrees and stir on occasion. Cook until they are dark. Add a little bit of salt before serving.

Roasted Pickled Beets
If my hands are pink, you know I’ve been cooking beets! I make this in the summer and winter. Again, not so much as a recipe as an outline.

There are two ways I roast beets depending on my mood:

1. Take a few beets (don’t peel), scrub clean, and place in a shallow pie pan with a little bit of water and cover with foil. Cook at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or so, or a knife test in the middle shows they are done. When cool, peel and dice the beets.

2. Wash and peel a few beets and place on a pan with a little bit of oil. Cook at 375 degrees until soft.

In a bowl, add the diced beets, a few dashes of vinegar (I like sherry), and a little bit of thinly sliced red onion, if desired.