Farro is my new favorite grain. If you’ve never had it, I would describe it as similar to brown rice but without ANY of the mushi- and stickiness. That is a huge plus in my book because the weak texture is what really turns me off about brown rice. Farro apparently also has higher nutritional value than brown rice and contains less arsenic. Arsenic? Yes, according to Consumer Reports arsenic can be a problem in brown rice. Well, good thing I never liked it then. :)
Farro is easy and quick to cook, all you need to do is submerge it in cold water, simmer it for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on how you like it) and then drain it. Done. By itself it is, of course, extremely boring (it is a grain after all) but once you flavor it up with other stuff it becomes quite tasty. What I did here was toss the cooked farro with garlic and mushrooms, seasoned the mix with salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven under a drizzle of olive oil. I mixed some chopped marjoram in to add a fresh spring vibe and then served the dish with a roasted Cornish game hen. It was absolutely delicious and when I say that about a grain, trust me that really means something!
Food Photography and Styling: I played around with my camera and a bag of raw farro one night, ended up taking the two pictures of the grain and thought they actually would look nice in a blog post. So when I photographed the dish I made sure that its photo fit in its overall style and feel with the grain photos. I stayed with brown tones and used my clay bowl that I got from Etsy years ago and set it on the same brown burlap bag that I used in the grain photos. The marjoram is an important ingredient so I made sure to draw proper attention to it by sprinkling a few leaves around the set. The light came straight from the left, as in the grain photos, and as usual I used my strobe.
Camera Settings: Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.
Farro with Mushrooms and Marjoram Recipe
1 cup farro
4 ounces beech mushrooms
8 ounces oyster mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a little bit of olive oil
1.5 teaspoons fresh, chopped marjoram
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add farro and 3 cups of cold water to a saucepan.
Bring to a low boil and cook to desired doneness (15 to 20 minutes).
Drain the farro and set aside.
Carefully toss the mushrooms in a bowl with the garlic and the farro.
Spread the mix out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Sprinkle evenly with the salt and the pepper.
Drizzle a little bit of olive oil evenly over the mix, then roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle evenly with the marjoram and serve as a side dish with poultry.
A few weeks ago we watched the series Cooked, a documentary about the history of cooking that is based on Michael Pollan’s book by the same name. It’s a very interesting show that is also absolutely beautifully shot, if you haven’t seen it I definitely recommend it. One of the things I was at first surprised to learn from Cooked was that people in the U.S. cook less today than they have in at least 30 years.
I didn’t realize that this was the case, what with all the cooking shows and, yes, food blogs out there. But after thinking about it a bit I could actually understand it. Cooking is a job. It takes time, planning, thinking and energy. And with all the responsibilities each of us have in our daily life, time and energy to cook a homemade meal every evening are a luxury for many of us. And I have to admit that even though I love to cook and have time for it, I too usually prefer a quick and easy recipe.
That’s where this simple noodle dish comes in. It’s delicious, cheap, super easy and takes five minutes from start to finish. You simply whisk together sesame oil, natural peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal and coconut milk, and then toss freshly cooked soba noodles in. Mix in a few fresh vegetables like carrots or cabbage for some crunch and you have a perfectly satisfying meal.
Food Photography and Styling: A most difficult subject. Gray, thin strands covered in gooey brown sauce and nothing else. Definitely not an easy task. I made sure to lay the noodles in the bowl in an orderly and wavy pattern and positioned my strobe at about the 11 o’clock position for a dramatic look. There are chili peppers in the sambal so I put a dried chili in the composition to add a splash of color and to mirror the waviness of the noodles.
Cold Sesame Noodles Recipe
4 ounces soba noodles, uncooked
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (with peanuts as the only ingredient)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal (more if you like it spicier)
2 tablespoons coconut milk
mint leaves and sesame seeds (optional)
shredded cabbage and/or carrot
Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions, then thoroughly rinse them with cold water.
Whisk oil, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal and coconut milk together until smooth.
Toss the cold noodles with the sauce, sprinkle with mint leaves and sesame seeds (if using), add shredded vegetables and serve immediately.
Whatever you don’t eat you need to throw away, you cannot store this noodle dish.
I’m not a big fan of raw fruit but I am a huge fan of fruit crisps. What an incredible transformation they are. You start with hard, boring apples and tart, twist-your-face-into-a-grimace raspberries and end with a juicy, crispy, warm, sweet and tasty dish of deliciousness.
For this crisp I flavored the fruit with freshly grated ginger and ground cardamom and topped it with a hazelnut streusel. The nuts add great flavor and crunch, so don’t be tempted to skip them. You can make both the fruit mix and the streusel in advance and then keep them in the fridge for several hours. Once you’re ready, you bake the crisp for about an hour and then serve it warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or indeed both. I mean, why not!)
Food Photography and Styling: Since this is not an elegant but more of a rustic dessert I went with a rustic wood set and kept the styling very casual. The hazelnuts are really important to me in this recipe and you can’t see them in the streusel so I put some whole nuts, some shells and some chopped hazels in the composition. I took the darker photos first and really liked their dramatic look but to show the actual food a little better I took a shot from a steeper angle as well.
Ginger Cardamom Hazelnut Raspberry Apple Crisp Recipe
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2–inch chunks
12 ounces fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
3 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Toss apples, raspberries, ginger, cardamom, cornstarch and 2 teaspoons brown sugar in a bowl.
Fill into baking pan(s).
Add oats, flour, hazelnuts, 3 tablespoons brown sugar and salt to a bowl.
Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter.
Sprinkle the mix over the fruit.
Bake until the topping is golden-brown (about 1 hour).
Serve with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.