It’s hard to get into the autumn state of mind when you live in the desert. There are no leaves changing color and falling from the trees. There is no smell of wood burning in fireplaces. Instead the grass looks greener than it has all summer and Halloween decorations look like tinder.
I don’t think I’m alone in trying to make my surroundings as autumnal as possible; leading the charge would be the foods I prepare. What better way to perfume your home and fool your brain into thinking that the early-arriving darkness brings with it a colder temperature that justifies slow-cooked meals? Of course, the air conditioner humming away in the background doesn’t do much to preserve the artifice – other than keeping a chill in the air!
All this rambling brings me to my original intention for this post, writing about this past
Friday. My girls and I were lucky enough to join my close friend, Jocelyn, on a visit to the stable where her horses have lived for years. My daughter, Lily was so excited that she ran from the bus stop to the house, threw her backpack on the peg and asked what she needed to do in order for us to get out the door. I picked my jaw up off the floor and headed out with the girls for a few hours of horses, carrots and endless chatter.
It was very sweet to see the girls engage the horses; they took a particular liking to Patrick, a ginormous (there I go again, using those technical terms) Clydesdale. It was quite a sight to behold…my two little dots chatting with, feeding and generally befriending Patrick. I don’t know a lot about horses, and much of what I know I’ve learned in the last few months. Jocelyn has been kind enough to share with me all that she’s experiencing as she works with and learns from horses around the country, which cast a different light on the interaction between Patrick and the girls. If you visit her website, you will quickly understand more: fromhorseswithlove.com.
But this is a blog about food, so I suppose I’d better get to the meat (haha) of the story. Jocelyn joined us back at our house for dinner, an event about which the girls were super excited – not because it meant a fancy meal, but because they could show Jocelyn (or Miss J, as they affectionately refer to her) how they play horse in the backyard.
I’d spent the day in the kitchen, preparing what I hoped would be a delicious meal that would reflect the season and give everyone (especially the kids) nice full bellies for a good night’s sleep. (Seriously, that part was really important to me…with my husband out of town and a multitude of activities planned for the weekend, I really needed the kids to sleep soundly.) I used this opportunity to take a stab at preparing farro having heard so many wonderful things about this ancient super grain.
It was a little hard to track down; the local market didn’t have any so I schlepped to Whole Foods (a pleasant outing, if not a little out of the way) and grabbed a bag (note that I couldn’t find any in the bulk bins, which would have been preferable). The rest of the ingredients were easy enough to source from the local market and the recipe is below.
I should mention that I completely failed in my mission to fill bellies…Georgie ate all of three bites and Lily picked her way through her meal. I should add that I don’t think it was the taste they objected to, I think it was more that they were super excited to have Miss J at the table (at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself)! And while I’m making disclosures of failure, I made the promised pumpkin muffins last week and they were an epic failure. I’m going to need to do some serious re-working of that recipe and will post it once I am happy with the final product.
Farro With Roasted Butternut Squash
4C water, vegetable, chicken or beef stock
1 large butternut squash
4 cloves garlic
4T olive oil
1T maple syrup
fresh ground black pepper
fresh sage leaves
1 white onion (finely grated, pour off liquid)
1/2C dried apricots, diced
1/4C sliced almonds, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 400. Peel and seed the butternut squash. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Place squash and 2 whole unpeeled garlic cloves in a bowl. Toss with 2T olive oil, maple syrup, 1t kosher salt, 1/2t black pepper. Spread in single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until squash begins to brown, turning squash halfway through cooking.
2. Add handful of fresh sage leaves and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, until the squash and garlic are tender and caramelized.
3. In a medium saucepan sautee the onion until it just begins to brown. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic. Cook until the garlic just begins to brown. Remove from the burner and cool slightly.
4. To the onions and garlic add 4C water (or stock of your choice) and farro. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the farro is alomst tender (20 mins). Add 1.5t kosher salt and simmer until the farro is tender (10 mins longer). Drain well and return to pan.
5. To the farro add the apricots and butternut squash. Toss gently and season to taste with salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Top each portion with a sprinkling of almonds and enjoy!