kale and farro soup

farrosoup

I have some thoughts about the kind of food I like to eat. I like it to be comforting and romantic. Comforting, I am sure you get. It should be nourishing and satisfying. But when I say it needs to be romantic, I am not speaking of the candle lit dinner for two kind of romantic. What I mean is that it should be evocative. It should conjure – feelings, mental images, perhaps some magic. When I was reading A Clash of Kings, all I ever wanted to eat was barley stew. Barley stew may not sound romantic, but it is when it conjures images of the Night’s Watch warming themselves against the cold of the snow beyond the wall. Book food is romantic. So is old fashioned food that evokes feelings of bygone days. Movie food, humble food, childhood food, food from far off lands, these are all romantic foods.

As you might imagine, I am a comfort eater. I often turn to food when I am stressed, sad, angry, or tired to evoke a different feeling. I mentioned in my last post that I have been in need of much comfort lately. So since just before the holidays, I have been comforting myself a lot. Luckily, I truly do love good, nourishing food. But, as has been the case lately, I sometimes forget about the nourishing aspect of comfort food and focus on, well, the stuffing your face aspect. And now my jeans are tight and my brain is not very sharp. I tend to be pretty sensitive to the effects of junky food and have allergies to some preservatives. I am feeling less than comfortable.

So good, nourishing food is on my mind and I am trying to comfort myself with food that will actually make me feel good, rather than turning to cookie butter (don’t even get me started on cookie butter. Have you tried it? It’s amazing and I really can’t be trusted around it). The act of preparing something delicious that is also good for you is comforting in itself.

Here is something that rates high on Bronwyn’s Scale of Comforting and Romantic Food, or B-SCARF: Kale and Farro soup.

Soup of any sort scores high on the scale because I can’t think of anything more comforting than soup. It is one of my very favorite things to eat. Everyone has at least one memory associated with soup – the chicken soup your mom made you when you were sick, the first pot of soup you ever made and how much better it was than canned. Soup is alchemy. Throw a few humble ingredients into the pot with some water and soon, you have something completely different. And Snow White made soup of some sort for the seven dwarves. Fairy tale food has a high B-SCARF rating.

Soup isn’t really springy but this soup isn’t too heavy so it is a good soup for transitioning into spring. Kale is wintery but it’s green. Farro, somehow seems a bit springy as far as whole grains go. It is also out of the ordinary, which makes this soup seem special and thus, romantic. I have heard whole grains referred to as “ancient grains” which evokes all sorts of lovely, romantic imagery for me. Bonus B-SCARF points!

The first time I made this, I followed a recipe that I found online by googling “farro and kale soup”, wondering if there was such a thing. I was in the mood for soup and the combo sounded good. It is a thing and there are lots of recipes out there. The next time I wanted to make the soup, I could not find the same recipe to save my life. So I recreated it from memory, making a few changes. This is now my standard recipe. I use the word recipe loosely. I can usually only follow a recipe once. And I don’t usually follow it closely. But if I have to follow the recipe the second time I make something, I deem it too complicated and it does not make my repertoire. So be warned that my definition of recipe might not look like your definition of recipe. If you can deal with that, you just might like this soup.

1 onion

2 stalks of celery

2 or 3 carrots or a handful of baby carrots if you don’t feel like peeling

1-2 cloves of garlic

6 cups of chicken broth (this is what the recipe said but I always use more – 8-10 cups maybe? The farro sucks up the liquid and it turns into stew quickly. You can add water after the 6 cups of broth if you don’t have that much broth laying around.)

A few spoonfuls of tomato paste

A bunch or two of chopped kale (or a bag from TJ’s or Smart and Final. You probably don’t need the whole bag.) Remove the stems if you are feeling ambitious but I don’t bother doing this with the bagged stuff.

1 ½ cups dry Farro (Randomly, I remember this quantity from the original recipe but I find that a lot of bags have 1 ¾- 2 cups of farro so I just put it all in there – perhaps why I always need to add more liquid)

A chunk of parmesan cheese (or some other hard, salty cheese)

Buzz up the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor until it is super finely chopped or it looks like mush – either is fine. If you have a big food processor, you can buzz all the veggies at once and I am jealous. But you can also use a little countertop processor and buzz each veggie individually (except the garlic – throw that in with one of the others). Watch out for the onion – it will gas you when you open the top of the food processor so look away! In a big stock pot, sauté the veggie mush in olive oil for a few minutes until it smells really good then add a cup of broth and simmer until the broth is almost completely reduced/evaporated. This takes about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and then dump in the kale and farro. Pour in the rest of the broth (you can start with 5 cups and add as necessary) and throw in a chunk of cheese. Let it all simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the farro is soft and the kale is wilty. Garnish with grated parm and a drizzle of olive oil. Yum.

tulips and tea

I love this time of year. Rain is pounding against my window and tulips and daffodils are in the market. The in between time. Not quite spring but no longer winter. The best of both worlds.

While I gaze at the bit of spring on my coffee table, I am keeping myself cozy with a London Fog. Do you know London Fog? I don’t know if this is the official name, but one of my favorite lunch spots uses this name. I think it’s just right so I use it too. It’s just Earl Grey tea steeped in steamed milk. It’s cozy and perfect on gray, rainy, not quite spring days. If you try it, tell me how you like it.

Has spring sprung for you yet?

i like fruit for dinner. i don’t like to kill bugs. i must be a big hippie.

Marcus works a lot of nights. Sometimes we have dinner together before he heads off to the shop but often times it’s just Abby and I. So several nights a week we have girlie dinners. Last night was one of these nights. We set up a picnic on the coffee table and watched a video while we munched away. Last night’s dinner was an apple, a nectarine, a plum, strawberries, fresh peas, sliced cheese, and roasted potatoes and broccoli. I also made myself an omelet from my friend Sophie’s cookbook.

Abby loves when we all get to eat together so when it’s just the two of us, I try to make it really fun.

In other news, I was the hero of my office at 6:45 this morning after rescuing one of my coworkers from a giant beetle. And by “giant” I mean “the size of my finger nail”. We are city folk. My hero status was short lived. Rather than squashing him as my coworkers wanted, I showed mercy on the poor creature and carried him down in the elevator and released him into the wilds of the financial district. He now calls the top of a garbage can on Market Street home.

So tell me, do you ever have girlie dinners? And how do you handle bugs? Wow. Those two questions really shouldn’t be grouped together like that. Oh well, it’s Friday.

Have a great weekend.

why sophie dahl is my bff

The woman puts crème fraiche in EVERYTHING. And let me tell you, I love crème fraiche. But I didn’t know that you can put it in oatmeal or rice pudding or on apple crisp instead of whipped cream or that if you buzz it up with peas and butter, pea puree will be the thing you crave more than anything. Now I do.

Abby makes me call her Sophie anytime we are in the kitchen and insists on stirring because it is, after all, her recipe.

And I can cook anything and as long as I tell Marcus it’s from her cookbook he will declare that Sophie is a kitchen wizard and also pretty easy on the eyes.

Sophie, call me. Let’s do brunch. I’ll bring the crème fraiche.

castles, bacon and friends

 

Almost a year ago, one of my good friends left the city and moved into a castle about an hour away. She still works in the city and comes out frequently for brunches so I see her plenty and haven’t been out to see the castle until this past weekend.

Okay, maybe it’s not a castle, so much as a really big house with a turret and a ballroom. And maybe it’s not a ballroom, so much as a really large, sparsely furnished dining room (there is no dining table). But you get the idea. It’s really an amazing house with a kitchen worthy of any cooking show.

For the last decade, my friend lived in cozy, single girl garden studios. Then more recently, a small downtown loft in a sketchy neighborhood with her husband. It’s just the two of them so furnishing the castle is slow going. Case in point: they have a stuffed animal room. Abby couldn’t stop twirling and leaping across the floor of the dining room/”ballroom”.

Speaking of those single girl garden studios, I have spent many lazy Sundays in them. Another friend and I would have marathon brunches (can you still call it brunch if it lasts until 7pm?) sitting at a little table by an open window, gauzy white curtains blowing in the breeze. Invariably, the menu consisted of cinnamon buns and bacon. A tray of each coming out of her tiny oven every few hours and accompanied by several pots of good strong coffee. We would munch and chat and laugh and scheme all day until sunset.  

I wanted to bring something to our Saturday lunch that would remind us of those lazy Sundays. I found just the thing in this recipe for peanut butter and bacon cookies. Oh yes, I made peanut butter and bacon cookies and I think you should too. Oh the gluttony! Salty, sweet, crystallized and maple-y. I am still full but it was worth it. If you decide to make them, make sure you have good coffee and good friends to accompany them.

What gluttonous treats do you like to share with friends?

pink pearl

 Isn’t that the best name for an apple?

I was watching a group of children descend on a man making balloon animals while at the farmers market yesterday when I noticed that the apple stand was back. Abby loves apples and this stand always has several unusual varieties, so during apple season I bring home a couple different varieties each week and we have taste tests. If you’ve never conducted a taste test with a small child, I highly recommend it. “Mmm, this one is schweet. Oooh, that one is berry tangy.”

The apple stand’s first week back at the farmers market just happened to be the first week of pink pearl season. Pink pearls are my favorite apple. I discovered them 2 years ago at this very apple stand. They have a very short growing season, only 3-4 weeks, and I’ve never seen them anywhere else. If you like tart apples, these are for you. The man at the stand watched with great concern as I loaded up pound after pound into my bag.  “Have you had those before? They’re really tart.” he asked in warning. He relaxed when I explained that I wait all year for them and when I told him they were my little girl’s favorite, he said “Well she’s no wimp, is she?”

As tasty as they are, the real reason I love pink pearls so much is that they are the prettiest apple I’ve ever seen. The skin is pale pink and green. And the inside looks like this.

Vibrant pink flesh. Colorful food makes me so happy.

Do you have a favorite apple?