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ffwd: wheat berry and tuna salad

wheatberrytunasalad

I think I remember making a tuna salad with lentils for French Fridays with Dorie around this time last year. This time around, the week’s selection is a composed salad featuring a wheat berry and tuna salad. Tuna = Independence Day must be a Dorista theme.

As best I can tell, wheat berries and farro are interchangeable, though not exactly the same thing. I couldn’t discern the actual difference from my reading, other than farro coming from Italy and typically being more expensive. Maybe it’s the actual varietal of the wheat. That said, I spied quite affordable “10-minute farro” for sale at Trader Joe’s. Dorie mentioned a quick-cooking version being available in France, so I decided to try out my find instead of continuing to scout for wheat berries. Also, I had tried out a different farro salad recipe last week (which didn’t come out so well, so I won’t bother to share), and the farro took FOREVER to cook. In the middle of our current heat wave, the 10-minute cook version was perfect.

This is ideal hot weather food. The only cooked parts are the grains and the hard-boiled eggs. I cooked both of these the night before when the air was slightly cooler. I also mixed up the mustardy dressing while I waited.

The farro is tossed with the dressing, the tuna, and a variety of colorful vegetables. I went with what I had: a stalk of fennel (plus the fronds) instead of celery, some radishes (instead of an apple), scallions (instead of onion), and the called for green pepper. The salad had a festive confetti look.

I do have to say, I don’t understand chunk tuna. I usually use solid white or albacore. I was out of tuna, so I just bought what the recipe called for. When I opened the can, it reminded me of cat food. There weren’t any distinguishable chunks, just some mushy tuna. Maybe it was the brand I bought. It certainly wasn’t like what I was expecting. Fortunately, it tasted fine in the salad.

This composed salad starts with a bed of salad greens tossed with some olive oil. I planted 24 heads of lettuce in my vegetable garden, and they all seem to be ready at once. Right now, anything with salad greens is a good plan for me. The greens are topped with the wheat berry and tnna salad. Finally, halved cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, and hard-boiled eggs garnish the top.

This was a gorgeous summer lunch. I made individual platings for the two of us, but, for a bigger crowd, I can see serving this on a platter for everyone to dig in and take what they like. As with so many of the recipes we try in this group, this is another springboard for an infinite stream of similar salads. Just choose your favorite grain salad and toppings and you have a beautiful meal.

To see what other Doristas thought of this recipe, check out their posts here. We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

For those of you enjoying a long holiday weekend to celebrate the 4th of July, I hope you are having fun. If it’s hot where you are, I hope you are staying cool and well-hydrated. For everyone else, Happy Weekend!

Weeknight Dinner for Company

I love to feed people. Cooking is my passion, and I like eating too, but I think the best part of the whole process is feeding people.

Over the weekend, we had visitors, Howard’s sister and her family. We had a nice visit. Actually, we always have a nice visit with them, here or at their house. Actually, I have to admit that we mostly ate out, but I did make one good meal.

I often try new recipes when we have company. I recently picked up the newest book by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? Lots of the recipes are like recipes I already have, but everything looks so perfect and inspiring in the pictures. I made lemon chicken and couscous with pine nuts. I’m not sure which I liked better. I know I’ll be making both recipes again. They both came together quick enough for a weeknight dinner.

I used a mix of breasts, thighs, and legs because you never know what kind of pieces people like best. I also tuned down the garlic a little bit, though it was still really garlicky. There was a surprising amount of pan juices, which I’ve frozen and plan to use for making rice another time.

On Saturday, we went down to the North End of Boston, the Italian section, to wander around and have lunch. The North End itself is so vibrant. There are so many people walking around, both tourists and residents. Several years ago, Howard and I went on a North End Market Tour with Michele Topor. Whenever we go to that neighborhood, we visit some of the shops we were introduced to on the tour.

For lunch, we lucked out and got a table at The Daily Catch, a tiny seafood restaurant on Hanover Street. I counted twenty seats, and they were all filled. The kitchen is right there in the same small room. They have the best fried calamari, not surprising as they’re also known as Boston’s original calamari café. They also serve huge portions of pasta right in the skillets they are cooked in. We ordered an assortment of dishes and shared it all.

After lunch, we wandered some more. We wanted to show off how pretty Boston looks now that the Big Dig is over, the elevated highway has been torn down, and the inviting open space connects the two parts of the city that were separated for nearly 50 years. I’m still getting used to the new look myself.

Our final stop was for a snack of cannoli and espresso. We were going to get the cannolis at Modern Pastry, which I prefer over Mike’s, but our group’s patience was shorter than the line. We headed over to Maria’s Pastry Shop, a bit off the main drag, where the crowd was smaller, but the cannoli is still delicious.

Lemon Chicken
Adapted from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?
Serves 4 – 6

3 lbs chicken parts (mix of breasts, thighs, and legs, whatever your favorites are)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup white wine
Zest from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp chicken stock
1½ tsp dried oregano
Sprigs of fresh thyme
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, just to cook lightly. Remove from heat. Add white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, chicken broth, and oregano. Pour the sauce into a 13×9 baking dish.

Arrange the chicken, skin side up, in the pan. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter thyme springs over the chicken, and tuck the lemon wedges between the chicken pieces.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is done. Remove from the oven, cover the pan with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve with pan juices.

Couscous with Pine Nuts
Adapted from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?
Serves 4 – 6

1 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1½ cups chicken stock
1 cup couscous
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup fresh minced parsley

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes until tender and translucent. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let it sit for 10 minutes to cook through. Add the pine nuts and parsley, and fluff with a fork to combine.