Spring is officially here! What better way to kick off this season than with a delicious spring farro salad that is easy to make and packed with flavor. Plump chewy and lovely nutty farro grains are the star of this recipe.
Farro is an ancient grain high in protein that is grown in Emilia-Romana, Tuscanyand other regions of Italy. I really like the farro products from Poggio del Farro, a family owned company in Tuscany. They have a range of products that are delicious, healthy and easy to prepare. Try combining flavorful farro wheat berries with seasonal vegetables and this lemon Dijon vinaigrette and you’ll surprise yourself with how simple it is to prepare a stunning and mouthwatering main course or side dish for your family and friends.
I created this recipe for my cooking shows with Smeg in Chicago and New York City. While Spring had sprung in Italy, little did I know that a snow storm would be heading my way when we landed in Chicago last week! We arrived with sunshine and optimal temps but awoke to a flurry of snow. It was quite a sight. Luckily it was just a one day ordeal and the snow quickly melted in the following days. Thank goodness! I am so over winter…bring on spring and all the good seasonal fruits & veggies, t-shirts and light weight coats and longer days of sunshine.
Add the farro and water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Cook according to the package instructions.
In the meantime, add of the ingredients for the sauce to a bowl and stir.
When the farro is done, drain and pour into a serving bowl. Add the carrots, fennel, radishes, spinach, Parmigiano Reggiano, chives and the sauce. Mix well. Serve warm or cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator and serve cold. Buon appetito!
Here are some photos of the shows in Chicago at Williams-Sonoma ,Eataly, Bloomingdales and the IHHS tradeshow . I had a great time in Chicago and now am having a lot of fun at the shows in NYC. If you want to see more photos, check out my Facebook or Instagram pages. March 26, I will be atBloomingdale’sNY 59th from 12-2pm and will be making this salad along with beet farro crepes topped with ricotta, blood oranges, pistachios, honey and aged balsamic vinegar. I look forward to hopefully seeing you there!
I’ve never found fresh cranberries in Italy, only dried. Normally it wouldn’t be a problem; after all, I only ever eat fresh cranberries at holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yet, it’s now approaching 2 years since my last cranberry fix; two years since I’ve been home to the US during the holidays.
What do I love about homemade cranberry sauce? Well, for starters, its bright vibrant red color that brightens the table, then there’s that sudden shock of surprise when a cranberry pops in my mouth releasing its tart juices that slowly are taken over by sweetness and later rounded off by a hint of CONTINUE READING
Last week here in Correggio (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) it was hot and humid, but now it’s rainy and cool outside. It feels good to wear a sweatshirt and Mr. Italicano’s big warm blue sweatpants. I don’t think I will every get use to the humid air that steals my energy like a sneaky pickpocket ::borseggiatore steals wallets on the crowded metro. Before you know it, what you had is gone. Such injustice, I tell you.
I’m in my Italian kitchen—5500 miles from Seattle, but I feel like I am there. I look out my window and see the same dreary grey sky that I spent so many years staring out at from behind closed windows of all shapes and sizes in libraries, offices, coffee shops, restaurants, gyms and various apartments. Some may hate this drab ::scialbo weather, but I find it comforting and soothing. It’s as though I am nestled by big pillows of sheep fur, the sensation is so cozy that it makes me want to curl up and read and write or relax cooking with a warm cup of tea and some mellow music.
I think of Mr. Italicano as I snap open these peas for this quinoa salad. He’s gone off to the Adriatic Sea for a sailing course. Poor him. Every time he goes he encounters bad weather and an angry sea :: mare. Yet, maybe it’s for the better. As a good English proverb says, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” How true this is, and so applicable to our daily lives. The challenges we face, the obstacles we have to hurdle are the things that benefit us in the future. It is this hope that I can realize my dreams and passions that helps me to not give up when things get tough, reminding me that these challenges will only make me stronger. (Even though it’s not always easy!)
I am making a big bowl :: ciotola grande of this quinoa salad with shaved asparagus and peas. It’s the perfect healthy dish to warm me up today, and we’ll eat it cold tomorrow when my hungry sailor returns. I hope you have a great weekend wherever you are and enjoy your day, rain or shine!
This wholesome quinoa salad with peas and shaved asparagus is perfect for healthy weeknight dinners or a large get-together.
For the quinoa:
4 cups water
2 cups (370g) quinoa
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
30 stocks of asparagus, ends snapped off and shaved
1 cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen
For the parsley basil pesto:
2 handfuls Italian flat leaf parsley
2 handfuls basil
1 small lemon, juiced
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add the quinoa, cover, lower the heat to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat with the lid still on and rest for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, make the parsley basil pesto. Toss all of the ingredients into a food processor or use a hand immersion mixer and mix until smooth. Add more extra virgin olive oil if needed to arrive at a runny consistency.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat then add the whole garlic cloves and shaved asparagus. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the peas and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Discard the garlic.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork and pour into a big serving bowl. Add the asparagus, peas and parsley basil pesto and stir until combined. Serve warm or cold. A great make-ahead recipe for large gatherings.
Mr. Italicano and I principally eat a Mediterranean diet: a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes, beans :: fagioli, healthy fats, cheese, wild caught fish and good red wine.
Quinoa is one of our favorite whole-grains (or “psuedo whole-grain because it is the seed of a beet relative). It can be prepared in a variety of ways: in soups ::zuppe, in fillings, as a flatbread, as small cakes and most commonly, as a salad.
Quinoa is extremely nutritious; it contains all 9 essential amino acids that are essential for humans. On the package of my black quinoa box :: scatola, it even says that NASA is studying it as a possible alternative food source :: to add in the astronauts’ diets, especially on long voyages. It’s quite impressive; it really is a superfood.
There are many varieties of quinoa, but the most common are white, red and black. The white variety is fluffier while the red and black varieties are on the crunchier side. I always add in a bunch of seasonal vegetables :: verdure di stagione, a good vinaigrette and in half an hour I have a created a delicious and wholesome meal.
Add seasonal vegetables and a dijon vinaigrette to this black quinoa salad to create a delicious and wholesome meal under half an hour.
For the quinoa:
2 cups water
1 cup (200g) Black Quinoa
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, skin peeled but left whole
1 leek, thinly cut into julienne strips
4 asparagus, the bottoms snapped off then shaved with a vegetable peeler or thinly cut into julienne strips
3 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch Arugula (1.5oz, 45g), chopped
2 carrots, grated
3-4 dashes of sweet paprika
For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ shallot, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
In a medium size saucepan bring the water to a boil, add salt then pour in the quinoa. Turn down the heat to a low, cover and cook for 28 minutes (or the time stated on the package.)
In a large skillet add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic clove, and leek; cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Add the shaved asparagus and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the garlic.
In a small bowl combine the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, shallet, salt and pepper.
When the quinoa is ready, pour it into a large serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Add the tomatoes, arugula, carrots, paprika, and vinaigrette. Top with the cooked leeks and asparagus. Buon appetito!
It’s officially spring :: primavera! The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting warmer, flowers are starting to bloom and if you stop and listen I’m sure you’ll hear birds singing an enchanting melody. This arugula salad with blood oranges and green onion is fresh, healthy and easy to make. Green onions are often times called spring onions, so it’s the the perfect ingredient to kick off this beautiful season.
Here in Italy, the farmer’s markets are filled with dark green arugula, blood oranges from Sicily and herbaceous spring onions. I try to buy as much in season and local produce as possible because not only is it cheaper, but the flavors are more intense.
This recipe is inspired by a delicious salad that I ate at DonnaAurora restaurant in Carpi (in the region of Emilia Romagna). The owners are from Sicily and although the decor is nothing special and the overhead lights are a bit on the bright side, all of this was forgotten as soon as the food arrived. Lost in a sea of new flavors, the chef guided my palate on a new gastronomic adventure.
One of my favorite dishes was their blood orange salad served simply with finely sliced white onions and blood oranges, extra virgin olive oil, salt, oregano flowers and parsley. Here’s my twist with these flavors, I hope you like it!
You may tend to eat salads just in the spring and summer; have you ever tried a salad with winter veggies? This spinach salad with chia crusted tuna and roasted winter vegetables is packed with nutrients and flavor. Top it off with a creamy homemade cashew dressing and you’ll find yourself in the ultimate food heaven.
Even vegetables :: verdure can be as stunning as Hollywood’s stars in high heels and sparking dresses strolling down the red carpet at the Oscars.
What’s not to love about plump green Brussel sprouts? Don’t be frightened by your childhood years when your mom probably overcooked them until they were soggy, waterlogged balls that smelled of rotten eggs. Trust me, cooked correctly, brussels sprouts are like candy :: caramelle that you want to just pop in your mouth, one after the other.
Beets also get a bad rap. Many people hate them, including Mr. Italicano. That is, until I roasted the beets to caramelize and concentrate their flavors :: sapori and snuck them into various salads and pastas. Now Mr. Italicano is a converted beet lover.
Fennel is an underrated vegetable that often times gets neglected, yet, it is one of the most aromatic vegetables and can add intense anise flavors to any dish :: piatto. Here in Italy, we love to eat raw fennel dipped in a simple vinaigrette made of extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon.
If Popeye the Sailor Man eats spinach, so should we. Their bright green tender leaves :: foglie are packed with iron, fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. Spinach is extremely easy to work into your daily meals. Make a salad, toss the fresh leaves into your egg scramble or serve it warm as a side.
In the spring and summer I grill vegetables; in the fall and winter I roast them. Roasting vegetables intensifies their natural flavors and turns ordinary vegetables into mouthwatering succulent goodness. Many people skip out on using fresh vegetables because they are time consuming to prepare. Roasting vegetables is one of the simplest methods to reduce consumption of processed foods because you can cook with whole foods in just 3 easy steps:
1. Chop up whatever veggies you have in your refrigerator
2. Lay them out on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt; if you’re feeling wild, add some dried spices.
3. Shove the pan in the oven and roast at 400°F (200°C) for 25-45 minutes. I don’t mix the vegetables until they have been roasted as vegetables have different roasting times. (Brussel sprouts and fennel will take about 25 minutes whereas beets and potatoes will take 45 minutes). Just peak at them every so often to make sure they are not burning and give a quick stir.
In the meantime, relax with a glass of wine or help your kids with their homework. Roasting vegetables allows you to cook with whole foods without a lot of hands on work. Eat the roasted vegetables as a side or vegetarian main course, toss them in salads, add to pasta or grains like quinoa and couscous, use them as fillings for quesadillas and wraps or blend them up and use as a healthy sauce :: salsa or dip.
Where I live in Italy, it’s quite impossible to find salad dressings :: condimenti—I love this. We use extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress our salads. At first I missed my bottles of ranch and blue cheese dressings that I always had in the refrigerator, so if you’re not ready to make the leap to a lighter dressing, I understand; yet, at least make your own. One of the worst things about most salad dressings is all the added chemical ingredients to preserve their shelf life. You don’t want to put those unknown ingredients that you can’t even pronounce into your body. Making this cashew salad dressing is so simple: just put the 6 ingredients into a food processor or use a hand held mixer and blend. And, voilà, it’s done.
Hah! This is funny, I’ve been pronouncing “chia seeds” wrong for the last year since I started cooking with these little beauties. I just had to watch a youtube video to get the English pronunciation right. I’ve been calling them “key-uh”, like how we pronounce them in Italian. Apparently in English they are pronounced “chee-uh”. So, why do I use chia seeds a lot in my cooking? They are a remarkable “super food” and are packed with protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Here is a great article that explains other health benefits :: benefici salutari.
I hope you enjoy this spinach salad with chia crusted tuna and roasted winter veggies all topped with a creamy cashew dressing. It has quickly become one of my new favorite winter salads.
Spinach Salad with Chia Crusted Tuna and Roasted Winter Vegetables
This spinach salad with chia crusted tuna and roasted winter vegetables is packed with nutrients and flavor. Top it off with a creamy homemade cashew dressing and you'll find yourself in the ultimate food heaven.
For the salad:
20 Brussel sprouts, cut into 4
1 small fennel, cut into slices.
1 small beet, peeled and cut into cubes
2 fillets of fresh tuna
¼ lime or lemon
Chia seeds, as needed
4 handfuls baby spinach, washed and dried
For the Cashew Dressing:
1 cup (130g) cashews
1-2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup water
½ lime or lemon, juiced
1 handful Italian flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper, as needed
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Put parchment paper on two baking sheets.
Put the Brussel sprouts and fennel on one tray and the beets on another. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, add some salt and stick the trays in the oven. Check the veggies every 10 minutes and give a quick stir. Take out the tray with the Brussel sprouts and fennel after roughly 25 minutes and take out the tray with the beets around 45 minutes.
In the meantime, make the cashew dressing. In a food processor add: cashews, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend until the dressing is creamy and homogenous. Add more water to arrive at the consistency desired.
Drizzle some lime or lemon over the tuna fillets then roll them in the chia seeds and cook in a medium pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side, leaving the center raw but warm. Cut the tuna into strips.
To prepare the salad: divide the spinach among two plates, add the Brussel sprouts, fennel, beets and tuna strips. Top with the cashew dressing. Buon appetito!
*Store the remaining cashew dressing in the refrigerator and use it on other salads, stirred into grains like quinoa, couscous or millet or eat it as a dip with crackers.