Talking about the best way to cook farro is a bit like talking about the best place to have a colonoscopy; useful information, perhaps, but not anything to get excited about. Hey, I shared your feelings until I had the privilege of cooking with the great American chef Suzanne Goin at the LA Times Book Festival last April. Right in front of my eyes, she prepared a farro salad with a garlic and parsley dressing that wasn’t punishing in any way; in fact, it was quite the opposite: light and herbal and fluffy and fragrant. The most shocking part? The highlight was the farro itself; each grain stood apart and was both tender and toothsome in a way most farro isn’t. I knew I had to learn the Suzanne Goin method for making it.
It’s August and you have no excuse: tomatoes and peaches are calling. Not the ones with little stickers on them at the supermarket, but the superior, positively bursting-with-summer ones you’ll find at your farmer’s market. “Ugh, but do I really have to go to a farmer’s market?” If that’s you, listen up: yes you do. And I’m going to walk you through it, tell you what to buy, in order to make an incredible Summer Farmer’s Market Feast for six. Are you ready? Let’s do it.
The farmer’s market can be an intimidating place, especially in summer when there’s just so much to choose from. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, buy a few peaches and tomatoes and leave quickly. Other times, I just buy everything in sight, a strategy that seems wasteful at first but which almost always pays off. When I come home with armfuls of bags and mountains of vegetables, I put them immediately to use and whatever I don’t use I pickle. It’s a win-win.
There’s salad. There’s pasta sauce. Those are things you can do with heirloom tomatoes in the summertime to make dinner.
But try this: get a loaf of really good bread. Slice the bread thickly and set it aside. Now take an eggplant (preferably purchased from the farmer’s market) and cut it into rings; cut a red heirloom tomato into rings too. Place those rings on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper…
A Summertime Farmer’s Market Feast (Green Goddess Heirloom Tomato Salad, Haddock Chowder & A Strawberry/Peach Shortcake)
At the start of my cookbook, I have a list of the ten most important over-arching lessons I learned cooking with the best chefs in America. One of those lessons is: “Put ingredients on display.”
There’s an explanation of that in the book, and I’ll wait for you to read your copy before I spoil that here, but consider this post a corollary to that advice. As you can see, after going to the farmer’s market last Monday, I put my ingredients on display in my kitchen…and that inspired a rather extravagant feast for my visiting friends Kim and Ben the next night.
Despite this month’s banner, one of my favorite dishes to serve in summer is an heirloom tomato salad. It’s a dish that does the work for you: just buy an array of quirkily beautiful heirloom tomatoes–as many colors and shapes as you can find at the farmer’s market–cut them into slices or wedges and serve them with torn-bread croutons, green basil (plus purple basil if you can find it) and some shaved ricotta salata on top. The finished plate looks something like this….
Hi Bouchon Bakery, how are you? I know we’re friends and that I’ve visited you many times in the past. I love your tuna nicoisse tartine and your roasted tomato soup with grilled cheese and your subtle salad with watercress, apples and blue cheese. But what’s the deal with your heirloom tomato salad?