I’ve been a bachelorette this past week. Up until late last night, my poor deprived husband was in Vegas with his pep band for the basketball tournament. Don’t you just feel so sorry for him? Pure torture, I tell you.
My life sans-hubs looked a lot like this: dog, work, dog, cook, dog, read, dog, sleep. Repeat. I especially missed his extra set of hands when it came to Bella, specifically when I drove home at lunch to walk her and then when walking her again late at night when it’s freezing and she’s smelling every blade of grass. I’m usually the morning walker, which I know Joe misses most when I’m gone. We each have our better times of day for these things.
Now, I consider myself a pretty strong female—Girl Power!—and there are some things that I do really well when I’m flying solo. And then there are things I just can’t do. One, big, important example is the thermostat. When you rent a property you very rarely have the user manuals for such things and we’ve lived a lot of places with a lot of different thermostats. I seriously cannot figure out the one we have now, which was apparent when I woke up the first night to Bella panting and me drenched in sweat…after I thought I had turned it down to 65 degrees. Nope, it was 72. And I was under flannel covers. This war between me and technology lasted all five days he was gone. It had me wishing Joe would teach me a catchy way to remember how it works, like Phil did for Claire.
There is one opportunity I jump on every time Joe’s away and it involves the kitchen—the place where Joe and I can differ most. We’ve not-so-scientifically concluded that Joe is a “Super Taster” and therefore cannot tolerate the bold, salty flavors I crave. (Blue-dye tongue test still pending.) Though we eat the same things, we season our dishes separately so I can be as heavy-handed as I want in shakin’ out those spices. It’s a win-win for us, but there are plenty of foods I just can’t make because he won’t have anything to do with them.
That’s why I was basically giddy to think about the foods I could cook without hearing his complaints or concerns. The name of this week’s game has been a combination of spicy! garlic! pickles! Thin Mints! Basically, “awesome.”
First up on my menu, a wonderful one-pan farro dish that I adore. Joe’s issue with it? Texture. I think it’s because the farro is a little chewy, so to some *cough-him* it might not taste fully cooked, but it’s just that great toothsome bite.
This recipe calls for two cloves of garlic. I threw in three. I’m living life on the edge for my all-girls week. It also cooks up fast (30 minutes) with minimal dirty dishes. Love it.
When you throw the ingredients in the pot, it will seriously just look like a pile of onions on top of water. But as it cooks, those onions and tomatoes start to break down and transform the water into a savory broth that tastes as though it’s been cooking for hours. It becomes infused with tangy, sweet, salty goodness.
It even works really well as a side dish for all you meat lovers. I used some of the leftovers to compliment a Trader Joe’s curry-spiced veggie patty. The tomatoes and onions were a perfect match for its Indian spices.
I’ll get to the recipes in a minute, but first I have to tell you about the crazy new recipe I tried. If there’s one thing that I love and Joe hates, it’s garlic….okay, garlic yes, but it’s also pickles. I like to test his gag reflex by drinking the juice in front of him. Mmmmm.
I had pinned a recipe a while back for Dill Pickle Soup. It reminded me of the time a bunch of us went to Detroit’s Polish Village Café after seeing their Dill Pickle Soup featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I remember loving their version and wanting to try my own. This was my chance. And I even broke out the girly placemats to celebrate.
The soup has a potato base and instead of pureeing it at the end, the potatoes break apart into bits while you whisk and the carrots soften but remain whole, so it’s a very hearty soup. The best part was its thickening agent—you mix flour and water with SOUR CREAM to make a paste. Wow, it felt strange to do it that way, but it thickened up so quick and had the most velvety rich texture. Decadent – well, as decadent as pickle soup can be.
If you’re a fan of pickles, I’d highly recommend trying this odd, yet satisfying meal.
Here are the recipes for both the soup and the farro. Enjoy! Oh, and thanks to Daylight Savings, I now have sunlight AFTER I cook dinner. It’s a photographic miracle!
Farro and Tomatoes
From The Smitten Kitchen
2 c. water
1 c. semi-pearled farro (see Smitten Kitchen’s note on farro types)
½ large onion
2 cloves garlic
9 oz. grape or cherry tomatoes
1 ¼ tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt
Up to ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
1 Tbs. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to pre-soak while you prepare the other ingredients. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well. Halve or quarter tomatoes. Add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, and set a timer for 30 minutes. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, though I’ve never found it necessary, cook it for 5 additional minutes, until farro is more tender.
Transfer to a wide serving bowl. If there’s enough leftover cooking liquid to be bothersome, simply use a slotted spoon to leave the amount you wish to behind. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with basil and parmesan.
Dill Pickle Soup
From The Noble Pig
5 ½ c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 ¾ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 c. chopped carrots, diced small
1 c. chopped dill pickles
½ c. unsalted butter
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sour cream
¼ c. water
2 c. dill pickle juice*
1 ½ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
In a large pot, combine broth, potatoes, carrots and butter. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add pickles and continue to simmer.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sour cream and water, making a paste. Vigorously whisk sour cream mixture (2 Tablespoons at a time) into soup. (This will also break up some of your potatoes which is okay. You might see some initial little balls of flour form but between the whisking and boiling all will disappear.)
Add pickle juice, Old Bay, salt (*see below), pepper and cayenne. Cook 5 more minutes and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
*All pickle juice is not created equal. Some is saltier than others. Taste your soup after adding the pickle juice and final seasonings. It’s possible you will not need any salt or would prefer more or less.