When I’m casting about for dinner ideas, it sometimes—not often enough—occurs to me to simplify a recipe or side dish from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I love, love, love this cookbook, but every component of every recipe seems to call for a tablespoon of fresh thyme, each of which I will pay for with approximately 1 hour of my life. (Don’t try to tell me you can just strip the leaves off the branchlet; apparently I have an extremely powerful thumb and forefinger, for this never works for me.) Usually you can skip the fresh herbs and supporting rare ingredients and still turn out something a little more intriguing than your usual Wednesday supper. Well, than our usual Wednesday supper.
Last week I finally tried Goin’s farro and black rice with green garlic and pea shoots (hold the green garlic, hold the pea shoots). I’ve had a bag of black rice around since I read an article about its antioxidant properties, but a surprising new strain of anti-Asian-food sentiment in this house has kept it off the table. Although folding it into farro sounded weird, it tasted and looked lovely, and it required neither the soy sauce nor the bok choy I had been leaning on. My taste memory is failing me here; the best I can come up with is earthy, sweet, and chewy.
Heat a medium saucepan over a medium flame for about a minute. Add a glug of olive oil and let it get hot; add half a chopped onion, one dried chile (she always uses arbol), and a bay leaf. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the onion has softened but not colored. Add 3/4 cup black rice and stir to coat with oil; cook and stir for about a minute. Pour in 1/4 cup white wine and reduce by half (mine cooked away almost immediately). Add 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer about 40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. When the rice is cooked through but still firm (taste it!), drain it and discard the chile and bay leaf.
While the rice is coming to a boil, heat another medium saucepan over a medium flame for about a minute. Add a glug of olive oil, the other half of the chopped onion, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and a bay leaf. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the onion has softened but not colored. Add 1 cup farro; stir to coat with oil and then contine to stir and cook for about a minute. Pour in 1/2 cup white wine and reduce by half. Pour in 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, until the farro is tender but not mushy. Drain and discard the bay leaf.
Stir the black rice and farro together. Taste for salt, season with pepper, if you like, and serve with a drizzle of nice olive oil. Serves at least six, I think.
I had hoped my hippie co-op grocery would have the green garlic and pea shoots, but no luck; instead we topped this with broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and red pepper and called it a meal. After my worries that this would be denounced as punitive vegetarian fare, Andrew said it was delicious, beautiful, and filling. Bee, who has become both picky and fickle, ate a smidgen of broccoli rabe and left the rest behind. Although I would usually skip the wine in a recipe like this (unless I had a bottle of dry vermouth open), I was glad to have an excuse to pick up a bottle in the middle of a particularly harrowing grocery run (hair pulling, cart-licking, screeched demands for cheese).
The leftover farro and rice nicely anchored my lunches several days running (there it is with cabbage slaw leftover from fish tacos). I’ve been grateful to have something fast and filling, since I am determined to finish ahead of schedule—for once—with this packing, which makes those old single-gal-in-Brooklyn moves that used to thrash me look like the child’s play they were.
I packed up all the china and crystal. I laid out the silver and counted it, which I failed to do the last time we moved across the country (I do not, by the way, like being able to toss that phrase around). There were only two things that seemed not to have made it from New York to California: my old boat of a wallet (the joke is on the person who took that, since it was full of defunct membership cards) and the silver gravy ladle. My mother and I remember the gravy ladle but can’t prove its existence; I do not intend to be so vexed again.
We were still in the middle of Downton Abbey while I was packing the fancyware. On good days I thought of how much I would love to have breakfast brought to me on a tray full of Herend Chinese bouquet in orange, so I could leisurely pick up the paper and pour my coffee in bed. On bad days I thought we never use this stuff and it makes no sense to have it unless one also has an appalling number of servants to take care of it. Modern families should do as all the earnest young Northern Californians do and stock their cupboards with sturdy Heath, as beautiful everyday as it is for special dinners. But we’re leaving California, aren’t we? The politics and the careful grooming may be long gone, but the department of pretty things is one in which I am still decidedly southern. I love my fragiles and worry more than is healthy about whether they will break. It finally occurred to me that, however little sense this makes, the way Andrew feels about retirement accounts is the way I feel about china, crystal, and silver. He worries about having enough money for old age. I worry about having enough place settings for a Thanksgiving table full of (unimaginable, still unimaginable) grandchildren.
It is, in general, with less angst that I’ve started packing inessential kitchen equipment: tortilla press, miniature tart pans, icing bag tips. Then I find things that send me into thoughtful paralysis, things like the empty cans I’ve been saving to make Karen DeMasco’s brioche baked in cans: should I recycle them now and find new cans in Massachusetts? (This is a bigger deal than it sounds, since we no longer eat canned beans.) Should I wrap them well in good intentions and tuck them into a box, confident that they will not just clutter up our new cabinets? Or should I just go ahead and make the brioche now? All I know for certain is that I don’t mind packing the boxes—to be honest, I even like this sort of big, straightforward project, with its cheerful bustle and tangible results—but I do not like puzzling out what should go in a box and what should go to the Goodwill.