Better With Butter

I am unable to resist.

I feel like this summer has all but passed us by. Between our move, getting settled in our new home, keeping up with an increasingly mobile and ever-changing soon-to-be-one-year-old, and last weekend’s trip to see Mike’s family in Indiana, I feel like we have had very few of those “lazy days” people talk about. No trips to the beach, not a single lobster roll, no barbecue or bluefish.

But we do have tomatoes. Every chance we get.

baby heirloom tomatoes in brown butter

Some of the best tomatoes we’ve had recently were these brown butter tomatoes. I saw the post on food52, and I couldn’t not try it. But tomatoes and butter do not a complete meal make, so I spooned them over some herbed farro, and topped each serving with a ball of creamy burrata.

Dinner: August 29, 2012

I may never eat another caprese salad again. (Julian was also a fan.)


Bits and Pieces


Part of getting back to the business of living, getting through the grief we’ve been feeling in this last week, has been to make plans, to reinstitute some structure in our lives. I sketched out a meal plan last weekend for this week’s dinners, with Monday’s ratatouille, and Tuesday’s comforting tortellini en brodo, with leafy greens swimming in the rich chicken stock Mike made earlier that day. Wednesday’s dinner plans got derailed early on, the result of some unexpected schedule changes, but I felt confident that I could put something together when I got home from work.

chard and chile

I had picked up some beautiful broccoli at last Saturday’s farmers’ market with the hopes of turning it into a batch of my friend Maria‘s Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli and serving it over farro, but when I pulled it out of the crisper it was long gone. My fall-back-and-punt had turned into a failure before I even got started, but I didn’t want to cave and order takeout – I wanted to cook a good, wholesome dinner at home. So I pulled out the chard I was saving to use in soup later in the week, carved it up in my usual manner, and sauteed it with olive oil, good, meaty anchovies, plenty of garlic and slivers of fresh red chile peppers.

Dinner: September 22, 2010

I tossed it all with just-cooked farro linguine, added a shower of parm, and dinner was served. And it was only today that I realized that I made nearly the same simple, comforting dish about 2 1/2 years before.

From food52: Summer Farro Salad

Summer Farro Salad

We love farro around here. As a side dish or the base of a hearty grain salad, it’s a staple in our pantry, so when I saw Jennifer Perillo’s recipe for Summer Farro Salad, a finalist in this week’s best fresh mozzarella recipe contest, I knew I’d have to try it.


I’ve made similar farro salads before, but Jennie’s recipe includes some great little grace notes that make this dish sing: cooking the farro with aromatics infuses the grains with flavor, and the vinaigrette combines both sweet and tart flavors that marry really nicely with the other flavors in the dish. I thought the chopped olives were a particularly nice touch.


Dinner: June 28, 2010

The mix of textures was probably what I loved the most – the soft mozzarella chunks playing against the tender bite of the farro and the pop of my little cherry tomatoes made for a really enjoyable dish. I’ll admit I was worried that the honey in the dressing would be just a little too much for my taste when I tasted it on its own, but every time I got a spoonful of the dressed salad loaded up with each element, I couldn’t believe how well balanced it all was. This is a delicious dish, great as last night’s dinner, and as today’s lunch. Thanks, Jennie!


Dinner: June 7, 2010

This here is a plate of farro, gently steamed Cooks Valley Farm spinach, melted Wishing Stone Farm cherry tomatoes with Zephyr Farm green garlic, a healthy hit of lemon juice and zest, some good olive oil, a crumble of Blue Ledge Farm goat cheese, and a sprinkling of crispy homemade herb and lemon breadcrumbs. Summer’s coming, and I love that we’re entering the time of year when I can make a fast and satisfying weeknight meal from a simply cooked grain, a load of vegetables and herbs from the farmers’ market, and a judicious amount of good quality fat and protein.

Worth Waiting For

first favas

Sure, I wait as anxiously for the first good summer tomatoes and sweet corn as much as the next guy, but I look forward to the arrival of fava beans at the farmers market more than anything else. There’s something beguiling about those curvy pods, something satisfying about slowly slipping the beans out and peeling off their little jackets (if you’re curious, I don’t blanch them before peeling – it has never made much sense to me, and doesn’t seem to save much time or effort).

shelled, unpeeled

I love eating them raw, with a bit of salt and lemon juice sprinkled on, or tossed on the grill whole until the pods are charred and smoky, but when I cook them indoors I try to keep things very simple, placing them into a pan with olive oil, some softened chopped shallot, a crumbled chile arbol (or chile flakes), and a sprig or two of herb like thyme or savory – a preparation which borrows heavily from Suzanne Goin’s prepararation in Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

I cooked these for just a few minutes, until they were bright green and buttery soft, then I tossed them with some hot cooked farro and a simple lemon vinaigrette. I had a small head of Treviso radicchio in the fridge, which I cut into ribbons and tossed in to add a nice bitter component, and I shaved plenty of sharp, salty Pecorino Romano over the top before serving. Though I didn’t think to do it last night, I suspect some toasted, chopped hazelnuts would have been a nice addition, providing a little bit of crunch.

Sausage Party


I’m a big fan of sausage. Some of the stuff that’s out there is suspect, filled with preservatives and other things you probably don’t want to think about, but if you can get your hands on the good stuff from a producer you trust (or, even better, if you make your own), you’ll be amazed at the things you can do with it.

the mix

When it comes down to it, sausage is just meat – pork, or chicken, or turkey, or whatever – that is ground up and already seasoned for you. Remove it from the casing and use it just as you would any other ground meat. It’s incredibly versatile, and a great building block for quick dinners.

rolled out

These might be the easiest meatballs I’ve ever made, and considering the sounds my husband was making as he ate, they just might be the tastiest. I took a pound of sweet Italian sausage (from Pat’s Pastured), removed it from its casing, and combined it with a cup of drained ricotta, a little salt, and an egg. I mixed everything together with my hands until it was well combined, then incorporated some fresh breadcrumbs (from two slices of soft multi-grain bread, pulsed in the food processor until the crumbs were slightly smaller than peas).

I formed the mixture into gumball-sized meatballs, and rolled each of them in a little bit of Wondra, then shallow-fried them in batches in about half an inch of olive oil.

Dinner:  April 8, 2009

I served the meatballs in shallow bowls with cooked farro and a parmesan broth with thinly sliced scallions and lots of fresh herbs, finishing each serving with a little smoked paprika and parm shavings.

The meatballs were crisp on the outside and almost meltingly tender in the middle thanks to the addition of the ricotta, and because they were made with sausage, they were seasoned perfectly throughout. I love when a meal with this much flavor takes so little time and effort to put together.

A quickie

Dinner:  October 22, 2008

I learned to love brussels sprouts at an early age, but they’re another one of those cold-weather veggies I tend to prepare the same way over and over. I wanted to give them a starring role in a main dish, but I also wanted to avoid anything heavy or overly rich. I decided to pair them with mushrooms for meatiness, and a little of our stripped-off-the-cob-and-frozen “Butter & Sugar” corn for sweetness. Nutty farro provided a vehicle for the roasted and toasted veggies, which were all dressed in a light bath of sage brown butter. This was fast, simple, and really easy to put together – here’s what I did:

I halved my cleaned brussels sprouts and quartered the mushrooms, placing each of them on foil-lined baking sheets, giving them a light toss with kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and then I roasted them in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes. About halfway through, I shook them around on their pans and tossed them with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. While the veggies cooked, I had a pan of farro going on the stove – one cup farro, two cups water, and a healthy pinch of kosher salt. I melted a couple of ounces of butter in another pan, adding a handful of whole fresh sage leaves, which I removed to drain on a paper towel when they were crisp.


When the butter was nutty smelling and browned, I added the corn, letting it cook just briefly. When the farro was tender, I drained it and gave it a very brief rinse in hot water. The farro went into a large bowl, the roasted mushrooms and brussels went in as well, and the corn and brown butter went on top. I gave it a gentle toss to coat and combine everything, tossed in all but a few of the fried sage leaves, tossed again and plated, finishing with shards of Parmagiano Reggiano and the remaining sage leaves for garnish.

A little brown, but surprisingly good.