Recipe: Kale, farro, and carrot salad


Kale is abundant at farmers’ markets in early spring, the fall, and early winter. Like Brussels sprouts, kale develops its best flavor after the first cold snap. And it’s beautiful. We especially love Tuscan (lacinato) kale, with its dark, blue-green color. When shopping, choose bunches with dark, unblemished, crisp leaves. Here, we use it raw, tenderized by removing the central stem, and shredded. The farro adds heartiness and the dried wild blueberries, soaked in verjus (see below), give the salad a delicate, subtle hint of sweetness. We adapted the recipe from a salad created at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, but we have seen similar salads popping up all over the place. The dried wild blueberries and Parmesan cheese make this version our own.

Serves 12 as a side dish.

To make the farro:

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 1/4 cups (14 ounces) pearled or semi-pearled farro
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf

 

Salad:

  • 1 cup dried wild blueberries or currants
  • 1/4 cup verjus or orange juice (see below)
  • 1 cup pine nuts or shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, center ribs and stems removed, finely shredded (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons verjus (see below), sherry vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled shredded or grated (1 cup)
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shaved Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives or coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

To make the farro, heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the farro, stir, and reduce the heat to low. Toast, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the water and bay leaf, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes (or follow package directions). Using a colander, drain any remaining liquid and transfer the farro to a shallow bowl. Discard the bay leaf. Let cool.

Meanwhile, make the salad. Soak the blueberries in the verjus or orange juice until plumped, about 30 minutes (if using currants, they can be soaked overnight). Drain and set aside berries. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over low heat, watching carefully and stirring often, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the kale with the verjus, or vinegar season with salt and pepper, and toss. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. In a second large bowl, combine the farro, blueberries, pine nuts, grated carrots, shallots, and pepper flakes. Add the olive oil and toss well. Add the kale and toss again. Sprinkle with the Parmesan (to taste), chives, and drizzle with the lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning and

Verjus: Literally meaning “green juice,” verjus, the pressed juice of unripened grapes, is actually red or white depending on the grape it comes from. It’s similar to vinegar, but has a gentler flavor with a sweet-tart taste because it isn’t fermented. We enjoy using it in salad dressings, especially on heartier greens like kale and arugula. Once opened, it will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months.

From 'The Community Table: Recipes and Stories From the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan & Beyond' by Katja Goldman, Judy Bernstein Bunzl and Lisa Rotmil (Grand Central Publishing)

This Week in Jewish Farming: Bring on the onions


Earlier this week, Fred and I went out to the field with five green harvest bins and came back with this:

Yes, those are onions. Lots of them. Grown by the same guy who, back in March, was nearly in tears when his onions were slow to germinate in the still-frigid temperatures and he feared the whole thing would amount to nothing.

Well, they certainly amounted to something. Our best performer was an heirloom called Ailsa Craig introduced by a British gardener in the 19th century and named for an island off the Scottish coast. Ailsas are known for their freakish size. Ours aren’t State Fair material, but they’re more than ample.

As for the rest of them, well, lets just say it wasn’t the bumper crop I had hoped for. Many are small and puny, too unimpressive to inspire a buyer at the market and too pathetic to give to CSA members. Others disappeared entirely. Despite seeding hundreds of shallots back in the spring, we found nary a shallot in sight. And getting to this point was a fight – two rounds of seeding, a late planting, endless battles with weeds and desperate applications of nitrogen fertilizer in an effort to get them to grow faster.

In the end, we got a crop. Not the crop I had dreamed of, but a crop still.

I’d love to say that the moral of this story is not to worry. That things work out as they should. That nature has a way of taking care of things. That if you put some seeds in the ground with love, a little water, sunshine and fertilizer will do the rest. It’s a lovely idea, and it’s total bullshit.

Perhaps if I lived in the Salinas Valley or the Nile River Delta, some hearty seeds and good vibes are all I would need. But one of the things I’ve learned this year is that growing vegetables isn’t really that hard. Growing exceptional vegetables and not killing yourself in the process – that takes skill.

Earlier in the summer, I spent several weeks fretting over my Lacinato kale. Farmers love kale — it’s a vigorous producer, tolerant of weather extremes and ultra trendy. My kale was OK, but it wasn’t spectacular. The leaves were smallish, their color was on the pale side, and they lacked those deep reptilian grooves. What killed me was I had no idea why.

I imagine there will come a day when I’ll be able to diagnose a problem like that on sight. Till then, I’ll still worry – over onions and everything else. And knowing me, probably then too.

Veteran JTA journalist Ben Harris is chronicling his new life as a Connecticut farmer. Read more of his weekly dispatches here.