I wanted to give you a post about Shirakawa-Go and ancient Japanese graveyards too busily sun dappled to photograph and Shinto shrines I probably didn’t deserve to see. I was probably married to the idea because wander starts with the same letter as Wednesday. And it’s Wednesday for at least another couple of hours. At least it was when I started writing this. I’m neurotic like that. Most of my inertia (of which I experience quite a bit, despite appearances) stems from hilarious, self-imposed, compulsive rules. But it has to be in chronological order. It can only have so many photographs. Too much time has elapsed, it needs to be reframed. The narrative has holes. It needs to have a title. Should I number them? Is there a theme? Maybe it will be a series? It needs to have a recipe. Or a how to. Or a guide. For someone who categorically failed at following rules her whole life, I sure do make a lot of them for myself. But I know when to tell myself enough is enough and good enough is good enough. It’s my mantra lately. And this dish is born of that mantra. And the funny thing is, when you let good enough be good enough, you frequently get great. And this wholesome bowl is great. It’s a savory, umami bowl of cravings satisfied.
Here’s the thing. My cooking is dictated largely by cravings. And those shift, tectonic plates. Lately I don’t crave cakes. I crave savory, umami bowls of vegetables and whole grains with big punches of protein from stir fried tofu or farm eggs. I make some iteration of this almost every day. My vinaigrette, if you can call it that, varies. It usually has some or all of the following in it: umeboshi paste (pickled plum, highly acidic and salty), white miso (warm, umami, salty), sambal oelek (acidic, heat, salty), ponzu (acidic, salty), toasted sesame oil (warm, nutty, a little goes a long way), sumac (acidic), tahini (unctuous, earthy, bitter, creamy), raw honey (warm, sweet), and grapeseed oil as a filler. I’m also very keen on z’atar and dukkah.
Salty, savoury, it’s a theme lately. But there’s something special about these savory ingredients. Something I can’t quite articulate. They possess a meaty warmth that makes me forgo land animals and sea creatures in favor of roots and leafy things and pearlescent grains. I’m learning to cook rice. Properly. And to use my donabi. I always leaned towards western cooking, a self taught student of the French raised beneath the Mason-Dixon line.
But more and more, the East, both middle and far, is creeping in. I do hope I can find myself exploring the flavors of Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Vietnam, and Japan in the next year if only so that I can bring what I discover back to everyday eating. The beautiful thing about cooking is it’s truly the most intense way to travel without leaving your own backyard. You can experience other cultures, other people’s memories, right at home, if only you venture to try.
This vegetarian farro bowl makes the perfect savory breakfast, lunch, or dinner but I love it most of all as the start of my day. The protein, good fat from the avocado, and energy from the whole grains keep me going all day long.
- 1 cup farro
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 soft boiled eggs, sliced in half
- fresh basil
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup microgreens (radish, arugula, whatever will do)
- 1 ripe avocado, diced
- 5.5 oz (160 g) extra firm tofu, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- juice and zest of a whole lemon
- 2 teaspoons tamari or shoyu
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- Rinse the farro well. Cover it with the water, add the salt, and sesame oil, and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the pot.
- While the farro cooks make the vinaigrette & boil your eggs. For a perfectly soft boiled egg, bring a small pot of water to a full boil, lower the eggs into it, cook for 6 minutes, submerge in an ice bath until cool to the touch, and then remove and peel. To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl.
- Toss a third of the vinaigrette with the diced avocado, reserve the rest for the farro & tofu.
- When the farro is done stir in a third of the vinaigrette, and then heat a large skillet with a splash of oil (I prefer grapeseed), and stir fry the shredded tofu until just warm, about 5 minutes. Stir in the last third of the vinaigrette. Turn off the heat.
- To assemble the bowl put the farro in first and then top with the tofu & avocado. Add fresh basil, microgreens, the scallions, and the egg. A few cracks of fresh pepper. A sprinkling of salt if desired. Sriracha never hurt anything.