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.
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.