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Archive for March 27th, 2012

matchmaker

Have you met Farro?

In case you haven’t, he’s a lovely fellow.

I ran into him at the cafe in my office. It’s a fancy cafe, serving things like duck confit on a regular Tuesday. Farro and I got to the line at the same time and did that little awkward dance: you go first, no after you, well thank you. We struck up a conversation.

He speaks with a slight Italian accent and if you lean real close, you might pick up a Middle Eastern lilt. When I asked where he was from, he proudly traced his roots back to the Fertile Crescent. He spoke like a DAR whose family fought in the American Revolution and came over on the Mayflower.

We sat down together with a group of colleagues, and the subject turned to dating. Farro was having a rough time of it. He had only recently moved to Boston and didn’t know where to meet people. So I invited him to shabbat dinner. I thought he might really get along with my friend Tabouli.

Tabouli’s family is also from the Fertile Cresent area and her parents moved to the US from Syria and Lebanon by way of Israel. Her best friend is Parsley and she often hangs out with Cucumber, Tomato, Scallion, and Mint. They used to go to mixers together, when mixers were the place to be seen, and picked up Lemon and Olive Oil, welcoming them into their crew. Tabouli had been in a bit of a funk after she and her boyfriend Bulghur broke up. He was a bit of a bully and she needs someone more soft and inviting.

I was thrilled to play matchmaker. I didn’t tell either of them about the other. I wanted to see  how they would get along at dinner. They sat next to each other. So far, so good. Farro’s hand grazed against Tabouli’s arm when he reached for the water pitcher. Tabouli giggled. She batted her long eyelashes. Farro shared his nutty sense of humor with jokes that Tabouli laughed at while the rest of us forced grins. So far, so very good.

After dessert was served and tea was drunk, Farro offered to walk Tabouli home. She demurred, saying she was going in the opposite direction. In the end, she relented.

Weeks and months passed in their whirlwind romance and I wasn’t surprised to quickly see a ring on Tabouli’s finger. They moved away to the West coast and bought a house.

A year later, they returned to Cambridge – Farro was interviewing for a job. I again invited them to dinner. As the summer sun set, they arrived with a sleeping bundle. She was beautiful with a shock of light blown hair and long eyelashes and cherry tomato cheeks. She wore a green onesie that Aunt Parsley gave her.

She was so cute, I could just eat her up!

Farro tabouli

Farro is s a nutty whole grain that is chewy and firm. It absorbs the flavors around it and is the perfect base for tabouli – a Middle Eastern salad whose star is pasley, providing a bit more bite and substance than more traditional bulghur. I based this recipe on one in Food & Wine and another provided by Anson Mills, a retailer of heirloom grains. If you want more farro ideas, check out a recent article in Saveur written by Leah Koenig (who wrote a cookbook that included a few of my own recipes).

This recipe makes enough for 4-6 as a side dish and would be great for Passover with quinoa.

- 1 C uncooked farro

- 3-4 handfuls small (cherry, pear) tomatoes, about 1 C chopped

- 3-4 small seedless cucumers (sometimes called “Persian” or “mediterranean”) or 1/2 – 3/4 of a large seedless cucumber, about 1 C chopped

- 4 scallions

- 1 large bunch parsley, enough for 1 C finely chopped

- 1 C lightly packed mint leaves, enough for  1/3 C finely chopped

- 3 lemons, for 5 – 6 T  juice

- 4-5 T olive oil

- salt and pepper

Cook. Prepare the farro according to package. Most directions call for a quick rinse before cooking, and some suggest pre-soaking. Don’t overcook the farro  or it will get mushy. I usually remove the farro from the heat a few minutes shy of the time recommended time. The grains will soak up additional liquid from the rest of the ingredients.

Cut. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes (1/4 – 1/3 inch per side, but don’t worry about being exact). Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the scallions. Finely chop the parsley (removing any tough stems) and mint leaves.

Squeeze. Juice the lemons, making sure to strain out the seeds. I usually squeeze each lemon half over my hand and catch the seeds as they fall.

Mix. Mix in a large bowl the farro, vegetables, and herbs. Season with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper, tasting as you go.

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