Vegetable Farro with Figs and Sunflower Seeds

Every week I plan my meals for the next week or two, so I can do grocery shopping on the weekend and schedule the cooking throughout the week. Recently, I remembered my slow cooker, which hasn’t been used since last winter. The slow cooker can be a woman’s — or man’s — best friend.

The only challenge is finding recipes that are healthy, and in my case, vegetarian. A majority of slow cooker recipes involve a large white rice, bean or meat component, which can be fine as long as you pair it with heavy dose of vegetables, but I wanted a recipe that was naturally good for you and filling. When I typed “slow cooker” into my recipe app Paprika, I discovered this recipe, which I knew was going to be a winner in my book. The farro provides a nutty flavor, the veggies melt in your mouth, the figs give it a sweet kick, and the nuts on top make it crunch.

Vegetable Farro with Figs and Sunflower Seeds

Ingredients:

> 1 cup farro
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 2 cups water
> salt and pepper
> 1 tablespoon chili powder
> 4 cloves garlic
> 1 lemon, sliced into slivers
> 1 green bell pepper, sliced 1/3″ thick
> 1 red bell pepper, sliced 1/3″ thick
> 1 large eggplant, cut into bite-size pieces
> 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
> 1 fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
> 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
> 3 small zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces
> 6 ounces spinach
> roasted sunflower seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

Turn a 6-quart slow cooker on high and set the timer for 6 hours. Add all of the ingredients up to and including the cherry tomatoes. Cover and cook for 4 hours.

Stir the mixture gently and add the zucchini and spinach, submerging them in the liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 2 more hours.

Season with salt and pepper and garnish with roasted sunflower seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Food & Wine.

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Roasted Chickpea, Farro and Arugula Salad with Avocado

While winter often calls for heartier, more fattening dishes, salads are still my go-to meal because they are filled with vegetables and easy to whip up at the end of the day. To create the same savory factor that an eggplant parmesan or tomato bisque, I use spices that have a kick and incorporate roasted vegetables or grains. This salad combines roasted chickpeas, nutty farro, crisp arugula and plump tomatoes.

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Ingredients:

> 1 can chickpeas, drained
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 1/4 tablespoon cumin
> 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
> 1/4 tablespoon paprika
> 1/4 tablespoon chili powder
> salt and pepper
> 1/2 cup farro
> 3 cups arugula
> 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
> 1 avocado, cut in bite-size pieces
> 1/4 tablespoon dijon mustard
> 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
> 1/4 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Put chickpeas in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add cumin, curry powder, paprika and chili powder to medium bowl, and mix until well combined. Place on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine farro with 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. In a large bowl, combine arugula, cherry tomatoes, roasted chickpeas and cooked farro.

To make dressing, whisk together mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix dressing into salad, and top with avocado.

Makes 3 servings.

Original recipe.

Farro with Roasted Squash and Kale

As various grains get their five minutes of fame, farro has come into the spotlight — although others such as quinoa and couscous are more popular — and is best known for its nutty texture. This farro salad combines the flavors of winter and features a variety of colors that bring life to the table. The dish can be eaten by itself or as leftovers atop a bed of greens.

Farro with squash and kale

Ingredients:

> 1 kabocha squash, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out, cut into thin slices
> olive oil
> 1 cup farro
> 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
> 3 garlic cloves, chopped
> 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
> roasted cashews
> salt and pepper

Instructions: 

Preheat the oven to 4oo°. Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet until browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the farro until tender, about 20 minutes, and drain.

In a large pan, saute the garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil for one minute, and add the kale. Toss until it starts to wilt.

Toss vinegar with farro, and spoon kale and squash over the grains. Serve with roasted cashews.

Adapted from 5 second rule.

Farro Salad with Hints of Citrus

Farro is a grain that I have never been very familiar with, but after having this farro salad at The Buttery in Santa Cruz, I knew I had to make it. The basic elements are the same, yet the dressing is hard to pinpoint so I experimented with my own version of dressing. This salad can be served hot or cold, although room temperature is preferable.

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Ingredients:

> 1 1/2 cups farro, uncooked
> 4 handfuls spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
> 4 handfuls shaved carrots
> 1 cup dried cranberries
> 1 orange, peeled and separated into 1/4″ pieces
> 2 handfuls chopped walnuts
> orange muscat champagne vinegar from Trader Joe’s

Instructions:

Cook farro according to the package. Let cool and mix in spinach, carrots, and dried cranberries. After 5 minutes of cooling, add orange pieces and chopped walnuts. Stir in dressing and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve at room temperature or chill before serving.

Makes 4 servings

Roasted Veggies & Farro with Balsamic Dressing

Farro is a delicious grain that provides a heartier texture to its healthy counterparts brown rice and quinoa. Ever since seeing recipes with farro instead of other health-nut grains, I decided I wanted to cook it up and see what it promised. One of my favorite ways to cook is to make different components and mix them all together to see what I get. That’s exactly what I’ve done here.

Different veggies may be used, and the amount of balsamic vinegar should be added in small amounts, tasting as you go to perfect based on your individual taste buds.

Roasted Veggies & Farro with Balsamic

Ingredients:

> 2 cups brussels sprouts, cut in half
> 2 cups carrots
> 1 red onion, chopped
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 1 cup farro
> 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
> salt and pepper

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 400°. Place brussels sprouts, carrots and onion in baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 30 minutes, or until light brown and tender.

Meanwhile, cook farro as directed by packaging. Bring farro and water to boil and reduce to simmer, cooking for about 20 minutes or until done.

Combine roasted veggies and cooked farro in large bowl and dress with balsamic vinegar. (Olive oil may be added as well to tone down the strong balsamic flavoring.) Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.