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!
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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