Late Summer Farro Bowl With Squash, Broccoli and Avocado
Life is unpredictable.
At one point, I never would have guessed that on this day, I would be sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle writing about food I created myself. I moved to Austin, Texas almost exactly seven years ago with a very different life in mind. If you would have told me then that I would happily return home in 2016; that my new husband would be in the passenger seat; that I would be writing for a living; and that I would find even greater passion in the kitchen than behind the keyboard, I wouldn't have believed you. It's funny how that works.
Summer in Seattle is equally unpredictable. Last week, it was in the 60s and the delightful hint of fall was in the air—the slight chill, the faint aroma of wood smoke, the promise of spiced breads and hot beverages clutched in my hands. Today, it's nearly 90 degrees, even near the water. (Wearing long pants was a bad idea.)
After my years in the desert, I'm longing for the cool weather to return. But I also can't deny that this place is truly breathtaking in the warmer months. The sun glistens off the Sound, and the icy blue of the water stands in stunning contrast to the evergreens behind it. Alaskan cruise ships drift idly toward the shore, waiting to flood the streets of the city with awestruck tourists. Seagulls float across the landscape and perch one-legged on the nearest streetlight.
This is home.
Any time of year, there's no place in the city I love more than Pike Place Market. The air is perfumed with picture-perfect bouquets of dahlias, lilies or whatever blooms are in season. A fish merchant throws a huge slab of wild-caught salmon to the cashier as crowds huddle, smartphones and cameras in hand. There's a line down the block for the original Starbucks, while locals flock to the aptly named Local Color for their coffee fix. Anyone with a sweet tooth stops in their tracks at Cinnamon Works, which offers scratch-made cookies and pastries the size of your head. And best of all, there are rows upon rows of fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs from local farmers in a rainbow of shocking colors. The produce vendors stand on the street, offering fresh-cut slabs of sweet, glistening peach, nectarine and apple, juicy and bursting with flavor.
This is my happy place: perusing the bunches of vibrant purple and yellow carrots; filling a paper bag full of plump, sweet cherry tomatoes that flash red, orange and green; finding a leek the size of my forearm and practically smelling the piquant aroma as I saute it in ghee; sifting through piles of feathery dill fronds and fibrous, jade-hued Italian parsley leaves. Sometimes I go with a list that my friendly regular grocer helps me cross off. He points out the fresh zucchini that just came in from Eastern Washington today; sets aside the bruised avocado I've unwittingly selected and pulls a perfect one out of the heap; he fills my hand with tiny pearlescent wine grapes so sweet, they make you wonder why man ever bothered inventing corn syrup.
Other times, I love just wandering aimlessly and grabbing whatever is in season that catches my eye. Whether it's an alien-looking head of neon-green romanesco or a plump delicata squash, I like challenging myself to create something yummy with it. This late-summer farro bowl was the result of such aimless wandering. I couldn't resist the sunny summer squash and bright green zucchini, and I just happened to have some fresh broccoli left over from another meal. I threw in lots of fresh herbs, a buttery ripe avocado for texture, some tofu and edamame for a bit of protein, a sprinkling of feta for a little bite, tossed the whole thing with a champagne vinaigrette I like—and voila! The late-summer bowl was born.
I used Trader Joe's 10-minute farro—my weeknight savior—to make this a more complete meal, but you could also use brown rice or another hearty grain. I hope this dish makes you feel as sunny and summery as it made me feel!
Late Summer Farro Bowl With Squash, Broccoli and Avocado
1 cup farro
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium summer squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
Florets of 1 small broccoli crown
2/3 cup shelled edamame (fresh or frozen and thawed)
1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2-3 tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1 tbsp chives, minced
Healthy sprinkle of feta cheese
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Champagne vinaigrette (slightly adapted from this recipe from The Kitchn):
1 large or 2 small green onions, trimmed and minced
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon honey
Generous pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Cook grains, drain and set aside.
Toss broccoli, squash, zucchini and tofu in the olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread squash, zucchini and tofu over one baking sheet, broccoli over another and put both sheets in the oven to roast. Remove broccoli after 20 minutes and the rest after 30, or when they start to brown and crisp a little at the edges.
Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Blanch edamame for 1 minute and drain. Chop the herbs, cube the avocado and whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a small bowl. When everything is done cooking, toss it all in a large bowl with the herbs, season lightly with salt and pepper and add 2/3 of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more vinaigrette, salt and/or if necessary. Top each bowl with the avocado and feta.
Most importantly, enjoy! Serves 2-4, depending on how hearty you like your portions (I made two very healthy-sized bowls for my husband and I.)