Eating While Standing

warm grains with cabbage and ricotta
We’ve all done it. You get home from work and you’re basically ravenous. You can’t be bothered with setting an actual place for yourself. You grab a few nuts, pour a glass of wine, break out the leftovers, and go to town. Or if you’re me last night, it goes a little something like this: You spend the late afternoon making and photographing a beautiful dish of warm grains and cabbage and time’s ticking away. You’re meeting Katie, your old high school friend, for drinks so you rush out the door. You’re wearing a pretty, flowy scarf and feeling a little like you can take on the world as you’re strolling down Divisadero towards your favorite neighborhood bar. You catch up. You laugh. You cry a little. You envy the fact that your friend has a real job (yay, Katie!). You drink maybe one more than you should considering the fact that you haven’t eaten since 11 a.m. Then you get home, pull your hair up into a high bun, break out the boxer shorts, and to the fridge you go. You find yourself sitting in a dark, quiet kitchen lit only by the security light from the building next door–tipsy and grateful for such an amazingly nourishing salad.

So while I’d love to wax on about what a lovely side dish this is and how well it would compliment pork or add to any vegetarian spread, it’s just as good in your scivvies late on a Tuesday night. I guess that says a lot.

I was drawn to this recipe because it looked like a fairly perfect dish to me. While I’m no longer a vegetarian, I cook that way most of the time and I’m a big farro fan. Yep, I’ve been in farro’s corner for a long time now. So this warm salad combines colorful cabbage, crunchy walnuts, hearty grains of your choosing (could use barley, spelt, wheat berries, or short grained brown rice) and the delightfully crumbly and slightly salty ricotta salata. It’s got a lot going for it. And I’m pretty sure you’ll love it as much as I did, whether you’re a worn-in boxer shorts or a cocktail dress kind of gal.
Farro and CabbageI’ve adapted the recipe, opting to cook the grains in chicken stock instead of water to enhance the flavor. I also used more thyme and added minced garlic. See the chart below for the proper liquid/grain ratio and cooking time for your chosen grain. Food and Wine did split up the recipe into two parts, giving you directions for making the Thyme-Scented Grains and then separate directions for the warm salad itself. I’ll do the same for ease, but just know that the former is quite common sense so don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the directions. I think this dish would be fantastic with the addition of spinach or kale as well. That’s on my to-do list next time around.

Warm Grains with Cabbage and Ricotta Salata

Warm Grains with Cabbage and Ricotta Salata

  • Yield: 6
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 1 hr 20 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 40 mins

I’ve adapted the recipe, opting to cook the grains in chicken stock instead of water to enhance the flavor. I also used more thyme and added minced garlic. You can use any grain for this salad and the cook time will obviously vary depending on your choice (See the  chart in the Directions, below, for the proper liquid/grain ratio and cooking time for your chosen grain). I think this dish would be fantastic with the addition of spinach or kale as well. That’s on my to-do list next time around.

Adapted from: Food and Wine


For the Grains:

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups pearled barley, farro, short-grain brown rice, spelt or wheat berries (10 oz)
1 small onion, diced
4 thyme sprigs
Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water, if you prefer): see chart for amounts
Kosher salt

For the Salad:

1 cup walnuts (4 ounces)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 pound red cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. chopped thyme
1/4 cup water
3 cups thyme-scented grains
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (1 cup)


Cook the Grains: In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the grains and cook over moderate heat, stirring until lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about five minutes. Add the chicken broth and 1 tsp. of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender. Fluff the grains and discard the thyme sprigs. Season the grains with salt if necessary and serve (Makes: About 4 cups)

Prepare the Salad: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate or baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes until golden and fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and cook. Stir occasionally until the cabbage is barely wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and water, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and the water has evaporated, 20 minutes. Stir in the the Thyme-Scented Grains, ricotta salata, and toasted walnuts. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Grain Cooking Chart: For 1 1/2 cups of your chosen grain, consult this chart for amount of liquid and time:
Barley, pearled/ 3 cups liquid / 25 minutes
Farro / 3 cups / 25 minutes
Short-grain brown rice / 2 3/4 cups / 35 minutes
Spelt / 4 cups / 1hr. 25 minutes
Wheat berries / 5 cups / 2 hours


  1. Lindsey

    This looks amazing. My fiance will indeed eat it standing up! LOL. Thanks for giving me another way to get whole grains in my diet!

  2. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Lovely post Meghan! Sounds like a fun night out that you needed and thank goodness you had the nourishing salad to eat when you got home!! I would love to come home form a night out and find that waiting for me!

  3. Asha@FSK

    Haha... that's voicing I guess what we all do! :) except I probably pick up a slice of pizza on my way! the salad is so much a better idea..!

  4. A Canadian Foodie

    What a refreshing change from the same old same old... This is absolutely a meal in a bowl - or, as you say, a side (for my carnivorous husband). I am sad that you started your lamenting so early in the week... save that kind of suffering for the weekends!

  5. bianca

    late night tipsy eating is what I call friday and saturday. it's a measure of true meal, if you can eat it, in the dark, in your skivvies and have a fricken ball!

  6. El

    It looks like one of those dishes that would be good at anytime or place from late at night to packed in a picnic basket. Sounds like your settling in to your new place. The photos are beautiful.

  7. Alisa

    Yum! That really makes my mouth water! I want to make something like that!

  8. Manggy

    Oh boy. That hasn't happened to me exactly as you described - usually I just hit a place for take-away. However, if I cooked as deliciously and creatively as you, I think I totally would have done it your way.

  9. Quelle

    Made this tonight with pearled I can't wait for it to get cold and eat it out of the fridge. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  10. megang

    YAY, Quelle! Glad you enjoyed it! And Lindsey: I know that you will.

    Thanks, as always, for the sweet words Mardi, El, and Valerie.

    Asha and Mangy: don't get me wrong--some bad pizza always does the trick, too!

    And Bianca: you said it, sister.

  11. Denise | Chez Danisse

    This is the best post-drinking meal I've ever seen. Sure beats cold pizza. Excellent title!

  12. marla {family fresh cooking}

    Your photos are gorgeous! I love the purples with the neutral colors. Hey, if you are gonna do a late night munch fest this is the way to go. Nice job! I love red cabbage, nuts and whole grains.

  13. Katie

    Megan! Just catching up on your blog to discover that look! I'm famous!

    That was a good outing. And this recipe looks amazing. I will try it and odds are strong that I'll consume it in the late-night-standing fashion. Love your work on this site. See you soon.

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