Once again, I dared to try my hand at preparing one of my favorite restaurant dishes. And once again, it’s a dish from Eataly’s Verdure. This time around I was attempting to make their decadent Farrotto con Piselli which is farro cooked in the style of risotto with peas. I can gladly say that the dish came out tasting fantastic and pretty darn close to the original! I’ve said it before, I am head over heels in love with the texture and taste of farro. The ridiculously awesome chewiness is a texture that works great in salads and soups and just completely shines as a star in dishes like the risotto. This recipe might be vegetarian but it isn’t exactly “healthy”. There are very generous amounts of butter and cheese melted into the creamy mixture. But you know what? Sometimes you just need to indulge and enjoy every bite on your plate. I did add bright, nutritious peas and served it alongside a salad made with roasted butternut squash and shallots, toasted pumpkin seeds and an apple cider vinaigrette. As long as your indulgence is balanced out I don’t see anything wrong with it.
This whole try-to-recreate-restaurant-dishes-at-home have become my food moments of the moment. I’ve started with really easy ones so it’s not that impressive. It helps when the menu lists ingredients (and sometimes cooking techniques). I knew this dish was cooked risotto style and included peas and pecorino. I happened to have Parmesan on hand so I used that instead. I also knew that they must have used vegetable stock versus chicken stock because Verdure is the vegetarian restaurant of Eataly. I also knew they used lots of butter to finish off the dish because you REALLY taste it and it’s divine. They always have some variation of this dish on their menu. Back in the fall, the risotto was made using a butternut squash puree. Yum. I feel like the combinations for this dish are absolutely endless. Below is my recipe for Farrotto con Piselli inspired by Verdure.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish
1 cup pre-soaked farro (follow package directions)
4 cups vegetable stock
½ yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup frozen peas
1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, plus extra for finishing the dish
Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan over low heat and keep the stock warm.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sautee until soft. Add the garlic, and stir for one minute. Add in the farro and stir for about one minute to get the grains covered in oil and toast a bit. Add in a couple of ladles of the stock and continuously stir the farro until the stock has almost all been absorbed. Continue adding one ladleful at a time, stirring and letting it absorb in between until the farro is cooked through and a thick, creamy sauce has formed, about 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen peas and keep stirring. Off the heat, add in 1-2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and ½ cup of the grated cheese, stirring until the butter has melted. Serve with extra cheese if you so wish.
Today’s food moment was something of an experiment. Some of my friends out there will know that I’m a little bit smitten by the Verdure menu at Chicago’s Eataly. Verdure is the vegetarian restaurant inside Eataly and I can’t get enough of it. The first time I ate there we had chosen it because all of the other restaurants had a line for a table. Verdure was wide open and almost always is. I can’t understand it. Actually, I can. The other restaurants are the pasta place, the pizza place, the fish place, and the meat place. I wish more people could understand that vegetables can rock your socks off when prepared in a healthy and delicious way. I always order at least two different dishes to share with whoever I’m with. However, I can’t keep myself from ordering their Scarola alla Griglia every single time. And why shouldn’t I? It’s delicious! Grilled lettuces and balsamic vinegar. Winning combination.
Time to plan dinner at my house. I realize I have pine nuts and a container of dried currants I used to make a granola. What else is served with pine nuts and currants? Scarola alla Griglia! Only my favorite salad of all time! I decided to make this happen. How hard could it be? Since I’ve eaten this dish at Eataly so many times I didn’t even need to look at the restaurant’s menu for a reminder of the ingredients; romaine lettuce, radicchio, Belgian endive ( I think…why not?), pine nuts, dried currants, balsamic vinegar, and parmesan cheese. Preparation? Drizzle some olive oil on the greens, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, grill. Done. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and currants and drizzle over some balsamic vinegar. I purposefully omitted the cheese only because after our 14 day detox diet I’m really trying to stick with the guidelines as much as possible in our everyday eating. The salad was still great without it.
What does the Scarola alla Griglia taste like? Grilling the lettuce gives it a smoky, charred crust that contrasts beautifully with the usual crispness of the lettuce. Be sure not to grill them too long. You don’t want a wilty mess of lettuce. The romaine keeps its delicate flavor while the bitterness of the radicchio and endive is bathed in the tangy sweetness of the balsamic vinegar. The creamy, nutty bite of the pine nuts and the chewy, fruity currants put this salad over the edge. It’s that good. Also, I chopped up my lettuce after grilling them. At Verdure they are served more intact and while it looks beautiful it can be a pain to cut into. It seems my experiment was successful. A salad is a good start at attempting to remake restaurant dishes at home. I’m going to need to think about my next recreation attempt…
It has been a weekend of truly wonderful food moments. Friday’s took the cake, though. A few weeks ago I was at Nordstrom to buy some face cream I had run out of and the sales woman suggested I sign up for their spring makeover extravaganza. It was to take place on a Friday night, a friend and I could come get a facial and makeover, and Sarah Jessica Parker was going to be there promoting her new shoe line. I told her I was most likely not going to buy any of the products they attempt to sell you on but she said, “Come and join the party anyway!” So I enlisted my best friend Jenny to be my plus one and we made it into a date. A bit of backstory here…I lived with Jenny just after she gave birth to her beautiful daughter to help take care of Cynthia and get Jenny back on her feet. She had some complications during and after the birth so I wanted to make sure my BFF was in good hands. It was one of the best times in my life! We had so much fun getting to know this new, tiny human and spending some quality friend time with each other after living apart for years. We developed an almost nightly ritual of eating a great dinner prepared by moi, grabbing our glasses of wine and some cheese, getting into bed and watching episode after episode of Sex and the City. Those were some good days and wonderful memories.
Fast forward almost 10 years later and Jenny and I are sitting down to a fantastic dinner with a glass of wine, getting ready to pamper ourselves and catch a glimpse of the beautiful and stylish SJP. It was like everything had come full circle in a way. If I may take a moment to mention the food. Chicago was blessed with the opening of Eataly a few months ago. This place is ridiculously awesome! Every Italian culinary product you could possibly imagine with several restaurants to sit at and enjoy some quality dishes. We chose to dine at La Verdure, which is the vegetable restaurant. After several wine tastings we settled on a beautiful Tuscan red and bathed the slices of fresh baked bread in golden olive oil. Jenny and I are both huge veggie fans but what came to us was something of our dreams. We started with the Scarola alla Grilglia which was grilled bitter greens with pine nuts, currants, Parmigiano Reggiano, and aged balsamic. Simple, right? Yes, but the flavors made it into a much more complex dish. The smokiness of the grilled greens combined with the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar was out of this world. I have never drooled so much over a salad in my life. We then split the Farrotto con Zucca which was farro cooked in the style of risotto, with butternut squash, Parmigiano Reggiano and butter. Lots and lots of butter. This might have been one of my favorite things I have ever eaten…EVER. There was no pasta, no cream, and not that much cheese but this dish tasted better than the best macaroni and cheese. I don’t understand how they did it but you can bet I’m going to be attempting to create this at home. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to Nordstrom Sarah Jessica Parker had come and gone. Not that we minded much. We both agreed that the meal beat any spotting of a celebrity. The women who gave us facials and did our makeup were asking where the two of us were going afterward since we looked so gorgeous and made up. To a hot dance club? To a trendy bar to sip trendy cocktails? Nope. We promptly went back to Jenny’s house to get into our cozy pants, snuggle up on the couch with her daughter Cynthia and watched a Harry Potter movie. Life is grand!