There's nothing quite like escaping to a peaceful island that's bursting with colorful blooms, edged with turquoise coves and populated by a night-time chorus of frogs that sing as cheerfully as birds do. Bermuda was glorious and entirely different from what I expected. Mostly unspoiled and cooled by the ocean air, it was a dreamy place for a wedding.
And so we saw Betsy - my first roommate in New York and the woman who introduced me to late-night fries at Big Nick's on the Upper West Side, joined me for weekly French Kiss dates on the couch, left used tea bags in the sink on a daily basis, held my hand and dried my tears through the worst break-up of my life, cleaned the apartment when it was her turn whilst listening to Les contes d'Hoffman, tirelessly counseled me into better jobs and better relationships, and was one of the best friends I could have ever dreamed of - marry her Scottish sweetheart.
(Funny how those tea bags used to drive me batty. Now that Betsy lives in London, I kind of miss their reliable appearance in my sink.)
Our main source of calories this weekend were far too many rum swizzles and Dark 'n' Stormies, with a few French fries, some conch fritters and wedding cake thrown in for ballast. Oh sure, the ceilidh dancing might have burned through a bit of it, but since we fueled our way back to the dance floor with even more of that delicious Gosling's rum, Ben and I teetered back to New York, swearing up and down to fast our way to purification as soon as possible. Never mind the fact that I find those kinds of hysterical promises entirely impossible to keep.
Luckily, I never find it a chore to eat whole grains and vegetables - in fact, it's often a relief when I'm not feeling pressured to put a "square meal" on the table with a meat and starch aligned just so on the plate. Then I can get away with a meal cobbled together from the various greens and grains nestled away in my fridge and cabinets, as Molly so beautifully described the other day. And if I'm lucky, some inspired combination will find its way into my heart and become a total, full-blown addiction.
Last night? I was very, very lucky indeed.
In my clippings stash, I found a gem of a recipe from a Marian Burros article about whole grains that was published almost three years ago. Deceptively simple, it calls for cooked farro studded with corn and tomatoes, then tossed with a deliciously acidic dressing and a medley of of springtime herbs. Trust me when I tell you that you when you start eating this stuff, you most definitely will not be able to stop. Lukewarm or chilled, eaten at the dinner table or on a picnic blanket, as a meal all on its own or as a supporting actor in a potluck - this dish is going to become your best friend this summer.
Instead of soaking my farro overnight, as Marian instructs, I soaked it for 30 minutes, drained the grains, put them in a pot with cold water, brought the pot to a boil, lowered the heat and let the farro simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, until it was tender. In the meantime, I quartered cherry tomatoes, drained a can of corn (I'm not buying cobs until they're for sale at the Greenmarket - it's my motto), chopped herbs, and whisked together the dressing. Then I drained the farro and let it cool for a bit before stirring it into the bowl of corn and tomatoes.
The still-warm farro bloomed open the flavor of the herbs, while the vinaigrette mellowed the toothsome grains. The corn popped sweetly under my teeth and the slivered almonds added a toasty crunch. Piled into a bowl and eaten with a fork, the salad was chewy and sweet, herbal and acidic. The fresh, bright flavors were a revelation. So good that I felt my alcohol-soaked veins wilt with gratitude. So good that I found myself nibbling surreptitiously at the serving bowl after I finished dinner. So good that I hid the leftovers from Ben so I could eat them for lunch today.
Maybe I have a problem? I don't care. You won't either, once you start eating. My name is Luisa and I'm a farro salad addict.
Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Corn
Yields 3 or 4 servings as a side dish
1 cup farro
2 ears cooked corn or a can of corn niblets
16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Place farro in a small bowl with water to cover. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest overnight on countertop. When ready to cook, drain farro, and place in a small pan with water to cover. Bring to boil, and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender.
2. Scrape kernels from corn, and place in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well. When farro is cooked, drain well, and toss with other ingredients. It is best served at room temperature but can be chilled.