Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold: Breakfast Bowls, Two Ways

For my fondness for farro, I have Harvard University Dining Services, of all entities, to thank. HUDS is also the reason the words “Scheherazade casserole” send shivers down my spine and into my stomach, but that is a story for another post.

Toasted and tossed with roasted root vegetables, farro made a meal divine by HUDS standards. I felt like a cruel joke was being played on me whenever it would appear on the weekly menu, only to be absent from the actual offerings, replaced by some subpar substitute. Beef fajita fettucine, anyone? 

Since leaving the world of HUDS behind, I have let my love of farro run wild. I have tried it drowned it in garden vegetable soup, cooked in coconut water and topped with toasted coconut, and stirred into salads. All so simple, all incredibly satisfying.

My favourite farro preparation has been this farro marinara bowl. Fat pearls of farro simmered in silky tomato broth remain toothsome enough to give girth to the bowl. Their velvety mouthfeel and nutty undertones meld with the verdancy of the basil and spinach into a hearty bowl that I tuck (myself) into without hesitation.

And, to intersperse your farro bowl-feeding spree with something cooler, here is a smoothie bowl that incorporates cashew milk and spinach, but that smacks of strawberry alone. I grew up on skim milk, sousing bran flakes with it, and swigging it by the cupful at breakfast. Cashew milk, however, lends a luscious creaminess to the smoothie that skim milk cannot, making each spoonful feel luxurious.

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Against the Grain: Chai Coconut Baked Alaska Brownie Bites

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Like many second-generation Chinese immigrants, I developed an appreciation for resourcefulness in the kitchen from an early age. For as long as I can remember, my parents have preserved used oil in a cool corner of the pantry, which they reused once, twice, several times over. Bread bought in bulk supplied weeks of school-lunch sandwiches. Cheap cuts of meat, once sauced, spiced, and stir-fried with fresh vegetables, produced dishes rich in flavour that kept our family well-fed. Following family dinners, my parents scooped any leftovers into Tupperware containers, ready to be nuked back to life for lunch the next day, unless, in the case of the choicest dishes, deviant fingers got to them first. Flavour, more than frugality, drove these habits. I never understood why so many North Americans limit themselves to chalky chicken breasts, plain pork chops, and flaccid fish fillets when, for a fraction of the price, they could play around with and savour hearty hog maw, crunchy pig ears, and fine-boned whole fish, eyes and all. To this day, I save vegetable scraps – carrot tops, onion peels, celery leaves, cauliflower nubbins – to make stock, and my freezer houses enough leftovers to feed a family of five for a week.

Another major benefit of an economical approach to food is that it invites inventiveness. Before blitzing canned chickpeas into a batch of hummus, I always add some of the reserved bean brine to help thin the mixture. Given the utility of the bean brine, it now seems silly to me that I never thought to reserve and to repurpose the rest of the brine. Never, that is, until a post-pavlova craving for more meringue and a lack of eggs in the fridge set me on a quest for an eggless meringue recipe and directed me to an article on aquafaba. “Bean water,” it turned out, could function as the foaming agent in a meringue. Intrigued, I saved canned chickpea liquid the next time I made hummus. Sure enough, armed with a hand mixer, a bag of sugar, and a vial of vinegar, I beat the bean brine into a fluffy cloud of meringue.

The rest unfolded organically. Half of a can of coconut cream, initially purchased to make curry, went into making a chai-spiced ice cream. Black bean brownies, leftover from a recent movie night, served as the bases for the Baked Alaska bites, ensconced in a snowfall of ice cream and freshly whipped meringue. I left the Baked Alaskas under the broiler just long enough to gild the tips. The result was serendipitously vegan and gluten-free, making this recipe safe for the growing number of people who fall somewhere on the spectrum of real to imagined food sensitivities. More importantly, it was delicious. And now I am spilling the beans on how to make these Baked Alaska brownie bites that wildly taste nothing like beans, just wildly good.

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