I used to be the “Whole Grains Girl”; it was my superhero name. I’m not sure what happened, maybe it was the heat, maybe I thought whole grains don’t make meals interesting enough to photograph and blog about, or maybe I just got too lazy. No more. I intend to be working those bad boys back into my diet in a major way.
See, I’m just getting around to reading Food and Healing, by the woman who founded the Natural Gourmet Institute here in NYC, Annemarie Colbin. It’s really a fantastic read for anyone interested in the subject. I plan on telling you much more about the book once I’ve finished, but right now I just want to mention a small point that really clicked for me. If we want to be whole people (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) and feel whole, then we need to eat whole food. This includes whole grains. What I mean by whole grains is the entire grain, in it’s whole state, not pearled, cracked, rolled or ground into flour. It’s ok to eat those things too sometimes, but in order to really feel whole, the majority of our food should be too. (This applies to things like eggs, chickens and beets, too).
Enter, dinner. All this may be easy to agree with (or maybe not) but the practical side is a little more difficult. Habits die hard, new tastes are hard to make, and sometimes we still crave our old ways. That’s why this dish involves lots of familiar flavors, plus things that we naturally eat whole anyways. It’s easy to eat whole foods when you take gorgeous baby eggplants, squashes and heirloom cherry tomatoes, grown nearby, and roast them to perfection. Mixed with farro, a deliciously nutty and creamy whole grain, and a flavorful pesto, we’ve got quite a meal that can be eaten warm, or room temperature like a grain salad.
You’ll notice that I don’t often make a traditional pesto. For one, I find most pesto very oily, and I don’t need that much oil to be satisfied. I turn my pesto into more of a paste, then add oil/water for the consistency I need. Also, pine nuts and parmigiano reggiano run me a pretty penny, and then to just puree them into other stuff – well, it seems quite a shame. So I use other nuts (almonds in this case) and just grate some cheese on top.
Roasted Vegetables with Farro & Pesto
1 c. whole farro
2 c. water
3 baby eggplants, or 1 small eggplant, thinly sliced on the bias
1 pt. cherry tomatoes (romas might be good, too) halved
1 very small summer squash (I used 2 super skinny zephyr squashes), thinly sliced on the bias
a few glugs of olive oil
a few pinches of sea salt
1 big bunch of basil, just the leaves
1 clove of garlic
a small handful of almonds
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. (or more) olive oil, just enough to bring it together
parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine the farro and water in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes with out lifting the lid. Set aside.
Lay eggplant, squash and tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil and salt. Toss to coat, then make sure that the tomatoes are sitting cut side up, and everything is in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, until browned.
Meanwhile make the pesto. Combine everything but the oil in the bowl of your food processor and puree. Drizzle in some oil, with the machine still running, until it comes together in a paste. You may have to stop and scrape the sides of the work bowl.
To serve, gently toss the roasted veggies with the farro. Stir in about half of the pesto. Serve with a small dollop of pesto and cheese on top. You probably won’t use all the pesto, but it tastes great on everything.
serves 2-3 as a main, 4 -6 as a side