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.
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. 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 Red Cabbage and Ricotta Salata
Adapted from: Food and Wine
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)
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.
Makes: 6 servings
Thyme-Scented Grains (see chart below for cooking times)
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
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
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