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

The Summer Patio Dining Series – Baby Potatoes, Bruschetta, & Pancetta…on Pizza! The Pizza Bianca at Vagabondo

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Oh, summer, how I have a love-hate relationship with you.  I get to wear pretty, frilly frocks and sandal flats when you’re around and iced drinks taste all the more delicious with you by my side.  However, you also make me feel absolutely disgusting with your unbearable heat and don’t even get me started on the bugs you unleash in the wake of your fury.  But I can let those things slide – just for a tiny bit – when you hand me nice patios to eat and relax in.  Like Vagabondo on Wellington St. with their fabulous Italian menu and food!

Vagabondo and I actually first met a number of years ago for dinner and dessert one summer night, but I didn’t like the photos I took from that meal, so I sadly never wrote about them on here but still thought about how much I enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and dining experience.  I finally made my way back for a follow-up summer meal and I can’t stop raving about it.  There are so many things I love about Vagabondo.  First off, I adore the patio and the tumbling water fountain out in the front.  Any patio that has shade and cover has my vote.  Summer evenings and nights are beautiful, but that certainly doesn’t mean I enjoy having the sun shining right in my face or burning the back of my head!  Giant umbrellas dot the spacious patio while pretty patterned couch cushions adorn the red and black booths that hug the patio on two sides. 

And the beautiful water fountain!  It’s the first thing you notice the second you pass by Vagabondo on the street and it’s quite captivating.  I mean, it’s no Greek sculpture, but there aren’t very many – if any – restaurants in the city that can boast and say they have a monstrous sparkling fountain on or outside their property.  It makes sitting on their dining patio so relaxing and soothing and because of the spaciousness of the restaurant property and patio, it’s almost as if Vagabondo inhabits its own little universe, annexed from the rest of the busy, bustling city.

Second, I love how organized their menu is.  Sure, many Italian places organize their menus by appetizers (antipasti, salads, and soups), mains, pastas, pizzas (if they serve them), and desserts, but Vagabondo takes it a step further, making incredibly easy for patrons to navigate the menu and to come to a decision on what they want to stuff their face with.  Case in point: their main meat entrees are clearly divided and organized by type – one section for chicken mains (pollo), one for lamb and beef (carne), one for veal (vitello), one for fish and seafood (pesce), and another for main dish risottos (risotti).  Prices for risottos and meat mains, on average, come in at $20-$28. 

And their pastas?  Divided and organized by sauce: tomato sauce (pomodro), rose (pomodoro cremosa), cream sauce (panna), and olive oil and garlic sauce (aglo’ olio).  I cannot tell you how much this makes me bounce off the walls.  I love this organizational scheme. Instead of sifting through a list of menu items organized with no particular rhyme or reason, you can just zero in on exactly what your tastebuds feel like!  Don’t feel like tomato sauce?  Skip it.  Have a hankering for risotto?  Swoop down to the bottom left of the page.  I LOVE THIS WITH A PASSION.  Prices for pasta range from $17-$21. 

During my first visit to Vagabondo I enjoyed an amazing chicken meal (the pollo porto fino) with fresh steamed vegetables and baby potatoes, and while I desparately wanted to have some pasta, I opted to try one of their pizzas because special Italian pizza is not something I go out for very often.  Aside from my yummy price fixe pizza lunch at Il Fornello, it’s been pretty dry in that department.  So I watered the grass, so to speak. 

   

Vagabondo has 12 different pizzas to choose from (with most priced from $15-$17) and if you’re vegetarian, it’s probably not the best thing for you to go for on the menu as most pizzas have a mix of both vegetables and meat.  Toppings include artichokes, proscuitto, goat cheese, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, baby spinach, chicken strips, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, mascarpone cheese, sausage, portobellos, and so much more.  My pick?  The Pizza Bianca: white pizza brushed with olive oil and topped with mozzarella cheese, bruschetta, pancetta (why, hello, Italian bacon!), Parmigiano Reggiano, and – wait for this – sliced baby potatoes!

I don’t know about you, but I have fallen so deeply in love with potato pizza.  I never had potato pizza until Linda, momma dolce to Le Dolci’s icing sugar queen and head honcho, Lisa, brought some for us for lunch when I was cupcaking it up during my time at the studio.  Before that I had never heard of potato pizza but after that first bite I was hooked.  Vagabondo’s pizza is DELICIOUS.  It’s a nice big pie on a round metal pizza platter, cut into quarters, and served with red chili flakes in a shaker.  

All the flavours and textures worked beautifully together: the bruschetta gave it freshness, juiciness, and a bit of acidity, the pancetta made it smoky and crispy, the olive oil and mozzarella cheese were foodgasmic together, and the baby potatoes were just divine.  They were sliced into big round coins and the potatoes just absorbed all the flavours while at the same time giving the pizza body and starchy texture.  The pizzas are thin crust and so flavourful and the added kick from the red chili flakes made it taste that much more amazing, not to mention there’s plenty of cheese to go around!  I love my pizzas extra cheesy and boy did this pizza ever deliver in all aspects of flavour, ingredients, and yumminess.

Even if you’re not in the mood to splurge a little more on an Italian dinner, Vagabondo has an express lunch menu with panini sandwiches, pizzas, and similar items to the ones on their dinner menu but in lunch-size portions and with less expensive prices, so it’s win-win for everyone.  It’s one of my favourite spots in the downtown core and I can’t wait to come back and try some pasta, risotto, and dessert!

*****

Vagabondo Italin Ristorate and Lounge is located at 32 Wellingto Street East in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood between Yonge and Church Street.  They are open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner, and they offer a lunch express menu as well as take-out.  You can view their website and menus HERE.