Supergrains by Chrissy Freer – Recipe for Warm Farro, Pancetta & Parsley Salad

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Recipe for Warm Farro, Pancetta & Parsley Salad from Supergrains by Chrissy Freer

Preparation: 15 Minutes |  Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

*Farro can be purchased as either whole-grain or cracked.  The most readily available is cracked farro and it cooks in about half the time whole-grain requires.  If using whole-grain farro, soak in cold water for several hours before cooking, then simmer in boiling water for up to 1 hour, until al dente.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups cracked farro
  • 5 oz. (140 g) pancetta, rind removed, cut into lardons (*Deb’s Note: I cubed my pancetta instead of cutting into strips)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t have any shallots so I just used half an onion)
  • 2 celery ribs, trimmed and cut into 1/4 x 2 inch batons (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t feel like cutting them into batons so I just chopped my celery.  I also used a lot more than 2 ribs because I love celery!)
  • 3  Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (*Deb’s Note: curly or Italian parsley works just as well!)

Red Wine Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t have any red wine vinegar so I used white wine vinegar instead.  Works perfectly and tastes delicious)
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. honey

Directions

  1. Cook the farro in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes or until al dente.  Rinse briefly under cold running water, then drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. To make the red wine vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  3. Heat a large, deep skillet over high heat and cook the pancetta, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until golden.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the farro, red wine vinaigrette, shallot, celery and parsley.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir to combine.  Cook until heated through, then serve.

Tip: This warm salad is delicious served with broiled meat, such as chicken or pork.

*****

Recipe from Supergrains: Cook Your Way to Great Health by Chrissy Freer, page 218.  Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, 2013.

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Warm Farro, Pancetta & Parsley Salad – My “10 Grains, 10 Days” Cooking Challenge with Crave at Random House of Canada!

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Warm Farro, Pancetta & Parsley Salad! From Supergrains cookbook by Chrissy Freer.

Even though I was away for nearly two and a half months, I was still actively engaged in our wonderful world of food during my break.  I was still visiting cupcake and macaron shops, taking photos of my baking, eating sushi, noshing on weekend brunch (was I EVER enjoying weekend brunch!  It’s what kept me sane most weeks!) and taking part in some really fun food events and activities.  I was feeling tired and overwhelmed and all over the place, yes, but that didn’t stop me from going out just to enjoy food.  I just did it during my time away on a much looser schedule and without the frantic worrying and I think it was something I needed to do before I felt like I could come back and blog full time again.  I needed to love and enjoy food for food’s sake, without having schedules and social media and promoting and everything else on my shoulders and in the back of my mind during this transition period in my life.  It definitely helped because I feel so much better now.

I feel so lucky to know such wonderful people in the industry who share the same love, passion, and devotion to the exploration of food and in January I got the opportunity to take part in a fun and exciting cooking challenge hosted and organized by the Crave division of Random House Canada, the same folks who brought us the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and blogger brunch with Deb Perelman!

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Lindsey Reeder, who’s part of the online marketing team at Random House, hit me up back in January to take part in a “10 Days, 10 Grains” cooking challenge using Chrissy Freer‘s brand spankin’ new cookbook, Supergrains: Cook Your Way to Great Health!  5 bloggers and 5 Random House staff were to participate, each choosing one grain from a list e-mailed to us, and then using that grain to make a recipe from the Supergrains cookbook.  We would all write about our food experience, take photos, and have our posts featured on Crave’s site as part of the “10 Days, 10 Grains” cooking challenge series!  I WAS ALL OVER THIS LIKE MUD ON A PIGGY!  (You can click HERE for the “10 Grains, 10 Days” Supergrains Challenge series on Crave’s website and blog.)

I, along with my mum and brother, love all sorts of grains including quinoa, wheat berries, barley, oats and many others.  So when I skimmed the list of grains to choose from in my e-mail from Lindsey, I chose farro!  Something I loved to eat but had never bought or tried to cook before.

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The wonderful thing about Chrissy Freer’s cookbook, Supergrains, and probably my favourite thing about the book, is how versatile, customizable, and undaunting it is.  There are recipes for every level of experience so if you’re feeling adventurous, go for something a little more advanced (oxtail bolognese!) or if you want something fast and simple, flip through the shorter recipes that are just as healthy and delicious.  I LOVE this cookbook SO much and can’t wait till I cook my way through the entire book.  I’ve made one other recipe from it (the quinoa corn muffins with feta, roasted pepper and chives) but I want to make it again, with my own twist to it, before I post about it here.  So stay tuned!

Now, back to my supergrains challenge.  I perused the selection of farro and freekeh (farro and freekeh were combined into one section in the cookbook) and chose something I KNEW my family and I would love: Warm Farro, Pancetta & Parsley Salad.  Read on for my cooking challenge experience and what I wrote for Random House’s Crave!

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My 4 main ingredients!

“Bless the gentleman who helped me find my farro at the Maple Leaf Gardens’ Loblaws.  He really went above and beyond, searching high and low and even asking the grocery manager for help on my behalf.  Up, down and around we went searching for the grain that would be the star of my Supergrains challenge dish, “Warm Farro, Pancetta & Parsley Salad” on page 218.  We searched in the healthy and organic foods section where the quinoa, spelt and buckwheat were.  No farro.  We ran over to the grains aisle.  Rice, rice, and more rice.  Then we wandered over to the ethnic section, all the while scanning for anything that started with “f” and ended in “arro”.

I thought I was going to have a mini panic attack.

You have no idea how big my sigh of relief was when I finally found it on the top shelf in the middle of the Italian section in the ethnic food aisle.  In hindsight, it really shouldn’t have taken me that long to find it.  After all, I had read the introduction to my supergrain days before I made my trip to the supermarket but the little nugget about it being a popular Italian grain didn’t click in my mind until I had the bag of it in my hands.

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Lesson learned.  And the extra bit of effort was well worth it because what I ended up with was an eagerness to learn and cook more, a newfound passion for this amazingly versatile supergrain, and a delicious, comforting dish that my family and I absolutely adored.

Even though this recipe just screamed “no-brainer” to me as I was browsing the farro recipes because of my love for Italian food and my mom and brother’s love of grain salads, preparing it took me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one.  It wasn’t just about my unfamiliarity with cooking farro; it was also about cooking with pancetta for the first time and really using my cooking instincts while making this dish.  This recipe was simply a guide to something wonderful and delicious, it wasn’t the be-all and end-all type where if I didn’t follow it to a tee, it would fail miserably.

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There was so much room to experiment and have fun with it.  I adjusted the cooking time and heat strength based on my stove-top (read: my stove-top runs hot.  Like, really hot.  We’re talking fiery sunset red on a 6 setting).  I diced my pancetta and chopped my celery instead of slicing them into batons.  And because I didn’t have any red wine vinegar in my kitchen, I used white wine vinegar in its place and the result was spectacular.  My heart swelled with pride as the aroma of smoky pancetta and mouthwatering vinaigrette wafted by my nose.  I did it!  It was so much fun, the farro was incredibly easy to cook (no presoaking required!), and I cannot wait to try more recipes from Chrissy Freer’s cookbook!”

*****

Publication info: TBA

Good Eats, Good Reads – A British Cookbook, and Ice Cream & Donut Shop Mysteries!

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If you’re anything like me, you have a bookshelf (or even multiple bookshelves!) full to bursting with books of all kinds: novels, comic books, coffee table books, and one of my loves, cookbooks!  It’s been a long time since I posted anything related to food books and reading material so I wanted to share with you all some of the things I’ve been head over heels in love with as of late.  I am a cookbook addict.  I’m one of those people that loves them for the photography and art direction even more than the actual recipes inside.  There are so many different styles of cookbooks though and while not all of them are practical, straight-forward, or even remotely useful to the average homecook, I think there is value and beauty in all of them no matter what the focus may be.  Everyone has their own priorities when they go about hunting for great cookbooks and it’s all about what you gain the most insight from. 

For me, cookie cookbooks are, hands down, the most practical and useful for me.  I know I’ll use the recipes, I know I’ll go back to them time and time again for inspiration, for actual baking, and for resourceful things like measurement conversions.  Then there are the coffee table type of cookbooks.  The type that most likely have some great recipes in them, but are so pristine and beautiful you can’t bare to crack the spine much less use them in the kitchen.  And then there are the ones like the one I’m posting about here.

I was in conniptions when I saw the magazine advertisement for Cook Britain by Canadian Living ($15.99, Transcontinental Media).  Sure, I’m absolutely amoured by Prince William and the darling Kate Middleton (I love her to pieces), but my motivation for getting this book had far more to do with my desire to learn more about British food than just a trivial fascination with the British royalty.  There’s no doubt that I love food.  But I am far from a global eater.  I’m a girl who’s just soaking it all in, learning day by day and when I saw the ad for the book, I knew there was no better time to get my feet wet in learning about British cuisine. 

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about British food but that I’m SO excited about this book and what I’ll learn from it.  I certainly won’t turn into an expert after reading it, but it’ll give me insight and a very basic knowledge to springboard from because I can’t talk about British food on the blog until I start learning about it and I think this will be a great start.  This book is wonderful because it’s a mix of everything: recipes, beautiful photos of food, and plenty of food history and information about regional British, Scottish, and Irish food including steak and kidney pudding, Irish champ, and Scottish shortbread.  Along with the incredible amount of fun I had during my last visit to Sorauren Park farmers’ market back in June tasting, photographing, and learning about some British and Irish eats, this is, in my opinion, the best way to dip my toes in the water.

Annnd cookbooks can also be disguised as beautiful, adorable, colourful and amazing murder mystery novels!  If you’ll recall, I am all hugs and squishes over the Hannah Swensen mysteries by Joanne Fluke and I’ve continued building my collection and reading my way through the series (newest book in the series that I don’t have and need to read?  Cinnamon Roll Murder!), but my oh my has this particular genre ever exploded!  There are SO MANY foodie murder mystery series out on the market and I am ecstatic about it!  The two series that I’ve been spending a little more time on are Wendy Lyn Watson’s ice cream shop mysteries (A Mystery a la Mode) and Jessica Beck’s Donut Shop Mysteries.  I’m missing one book from each series (the first one in the ice cream shop, I Scream, You Scream, and I believe the 4th one in the Donut Shop Mysteries, Evil Eclairs) and the latest two, Killer Crullers and Drop Dead Chocolate I just purchased last weekend!  These books are so much fun (and yes, they do have recipes in them) and I could spend eternity reading these from cover to cover.

In addition to these two series, I’m eyeing a whole truckload of others including Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries, Sheila Connolly’s Orchard Mysteries (apples!), Livia Washburn’s Fresh-Baked Mysteries (Ooo, killer crab cakes and pumpkin muffin murders!), Chris Cavender’s Pizza Lovers Mysteries (mmm, pepperoni), AND – get this – a CUPCAKE BAKERY MYSTERY SERIES!  I just discovered this series over the weekend and like any avid bookworm foodie, I snatched up the first one in the series: Sprinkle with Murder.  The series is written by Jenn McKinlay and there are, I believe, 3 books so far.

There’s nothing like a fresh new food magazine, novel, and cookbook to cuddle up with, so if you get the chance, definitely take a look-see at some of these fab reads and feel free to share your favourites too!

A Library of Cookbooks and Kitchen Accessories from A-Z! Good Egg in Kensington Market

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A is for apple, B is for bagel, C is for cupcake, D is for doughnut, E is escarole, F is for funnel cake, and G is for…Good Egg in Kensington Market!  You were afraid I was going to recite this through the entire alphabet weren’t you?  I had to do it considering one of my favourite items in this fantastic foodie, kitchen accessory store is a framed poster of an adorable alphabet of food and cooking items that I very much want to hang on my own wall at home! 

I fell in love with Good Egg the second I walked up to the storefront and peered in through the giant glass window display.  I saw baking books, cute stationery, cookbooks, and bright coloured paper flower ornaments hanging from the ceiling and thought, “where have I been all this time?!”  All this time I thought Blue Banana was my primary foodie haven in Kensington Market.  I was wrong.  Good Egg is so much more than I ever could have expected and I am so happy I decided to walk in on whim.

Good Egg is a wonderfully fun, whimsical shop devoted to food and cooking with everything you could possibly want in a foodie establishment, mixing the contemporary with retro and vintage, and function, practicality, and education with creativity and inspiration.   Although their classes are currently on break until their kitchen renovations are completed later on this year, Good Egg host classes such a knife skills, butchering, and other cooking related workshops and demos. 

Their function and practicality stems from the cooking tools and accessories they sell.  Don’t let the cutesy home decor items fool you; Good Egg is serious about spreading the love of food and cooking and making it less intimidating and more accessible by carrying colourful kitchen utensils such as spatulas, ladles, wooden spoons, mortar and pestles, and silicone whisks, salad bowls, and cutting boards; fun aprons and cloth linens; heavy duty baking dishes, roasting pans, butter dishes, and skillets; tea and tea accessories; and salt and pepper grinders among many other items.

The fun and whimsical is clearly apparent from their home decor items and giftware, right down to the bow tie mugs, heart-shaped egg shapers, and patterned cupcake wrappers!  I was head over heels in love with this too-cute-for-words baby fawn soap pump, bright coloured tea pots, gorgeous patterned napkins and tea towels (one of these days I will have my own linen closet filled to the brim with them!), and the aforementioned mugs with the patterned bow ties and bold colourful stripes.  The shop is incredibly neat and organized, divided into different sections making everything easily accessible and simple to shop around and find.

What really makes Good Egg stand out though is their food library!  The book lover in me was in conniptions over this!  Floor to ceiling shelves stuffed with cookbooks and coffee table food books occupy half the shop and within these shelves you’ll find gloriuous reading material dedicated to everything from food and herb planting znd gardening, veganism and vegetarian cuisine, baking, wine, butchering, wild foods and foraging, roasting, braising, food science, cultural cuisines, and plenty of Food Network celebrity cookbooks from chefs such Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, and Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes.

Their library of books is the heart and soul for me because it showcases the interrelationships and connections between the historical and the present, and the local and the global.  These books highlight social food movements, classic cooking techniques that have stood the test of time, molecular gastronomy, nature’s bounty, and the pure joy and love of cooking and food exploration.  Its location within Kensington Market makes it all the more fitting because it lends itself to the neighbourhood’s unabashed organic personality.  There are hundreds of reasons why I love Kensington Market and why it’s my favourite neighbourhood in the city.  And I think I’ve found another hundred reasons to add to that list in Good Egg alone.

*****

Good Egg is located at 267 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market, south of College Street and west of Spadina Ave.  You can keep up-to-date with their classes, events, and news on their website here or follow them on Twitter @goodeggnews.

The Fall Harvest Series: Fresh & Farm-to-Table – The Foodie Emporium That is Evergreen Brick Works, Part II

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When a few friends told me Evergreen Brick Works was big and all sorts of awesome, I had no idea it would be THIS big and awesome.  Are there other farmers’ markets in the city that I love to pieces just as much?  Of course.  But Evergreen Brickworks is a different kind of foodie playground.   There’s a certain rustic quality to it, and a very communal, down-to-earth atmosphere that makes you feel welcome and homey.  At the heart of Evergreen is sustainability: sustaining our environment and our communities while at the same time building new relationships through beautiful community green spaces, classes, workshops, and charitable events.  

The connections made between the environment, the people, and the food is just one of Evergreen’s pride and joys.  As the menu at Cafe Belong reads, “Food is fuel, food is medicine, and food is love”.  The food culture connects the global with the local – and vice versa – with its farm-to-table philosophy, bringing some of the best of what other countries have to offer and integrating these transnational and transglobal relationships into our local ones in the marketplace.  You learn so much just by being here.

I was literally standing by the olive oil table talking to the sweet lady for 10-15 minutes, as I sampled some bread, olive oil, and balsamic and took notes in my notebook while she explained all these wonderful things about olive oil and balsamics.  Things like what to look for on a bottle’s label to determine authenticity (“made in” versus “product of”, import information, etc.), what colour of bottle to look for (dark!), the names of the oils depending on how many varieties of olives are used (one olive variety = monocultivar), and how the age of the olives affects the notes and taste of the oil (the older the more grassier). 

I have never been so informed about olive oil in my life and it was amazing because I came away with so much more knowledge than I came in with.  And I think that’s the beauty of being here.  You take a little something with you every time you come and go and you open yourself up to a world of foodie exploration.

There are so many different components that make it a wonderland to explore and play in and its sheer size, alone, makes it unique and special.  The Saturday farmers’ market (which, in my humble opinion, should be renamed to “giant food mansion barn paradise thing”) emphasizes homegrown Ontario farming and food, and local food businesses with farmers and producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cheese, local bakers and bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and restaurant business owners coming together under one barn roof.  This market was open and spacious and just plain HUGE.  It was like a fresh food flea market in a barn!  Not only were there tables upon tables of farmers selling their produce, but there were samples to try, grills being fired up for hot lunch food, and live music.  You could literally outfit your entire refrigerator and kitchen after a day here.

The menu of fresh, local food and produce draws hungry foodies to Cafe Belong, a beautiful, airy cafe and rustic dining hall.  Sit down with a coffee, baked good, or meal where the food is fresh and seasonal.  Menu items include dishes such as tomato salad with barley ($12), cured fish with grilled fennel ($14), summer squash with smoked duckand seasonal berries ($15), steamed lake fish ($18), braised lamb ($19), sweet and sticky pork with apples ($17), vegetarian pot barley with mushrooms and rainbow chard ($16), and vegan moroccan chick pea stew ($15).  End (or begin!) your meal with something sweet from the cafe, like a spiced heirloom pumpkin tart, a fresh baked apple pie, a blueberry scone, or one of Cafe Belongs many cookies, muffins, and oat bars. 

The gardening and planting area encourages and provides us with the tools to be our own farmers and producers of food and finally, the marketplace, with its local and global gourmet eats, reads, and gadgets, is a mecca of food and shopping goodness.  There are shelves and tables with cookbooks (local, sustainable food, vegetarian and vegan food, raw food, preserves and canning, baking cookbooks, and so much more), olive oils and balsalmic vinaigrettes, jams and preserves, mustards, curries, pickled vegetables, coffees, teas, local artwork, handmade craft items, and kitchen accessories.

The cookbook junkie in me was going craaazy and everything was so festive with all the seasonal decorations sitting on the tables and hanging on the walls.  I can’t even imagine what the marketplace is going to look like when the holidays roll around in December!  And that’s another thing I love about Evergreen, that it’s cyclical, relevant, and timely.  When you’re here, you feel like you’re in the thick of everything important that’s happening in local food culture and you grow with them as you see and learn more.

This first visit was a fabulous one and I am so excited about making another one closer to the holidays in the winter.  I’m happily enjoying fall while it lasts (it feels like the shortest season out of the four sometimes!), but a big part of me cannot wait to see what’s in store later on this year.  Enjoy the photos and I’ll have Part III for you guys tomorrow.  Baked goods ahoy!

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm.  If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station.  Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.