Distant inspiration

Posted by Anita on 12.19.10 3:24 PM

Hungry Mother always seemed like the kind of place we’d enjoy: local and sustainable sourcing, Southern-inspired food, and a great cocktail list. It’s been on our short list of places to try for years, and on a recent trip to Boston, we finally made it there.

It’s easy to win hearts and minds with menu items like pimento cheese, bourbon-braised pork shoulder, and cheddar grits with house-made tasso, not to mention winning cocktails like the No. 43 (rye, tawny port, maple syrup, and bitters). But amid all of these decadent treats was a salad that sounded so tame that I actually felt a little boring for ordering it.

The buttermilk-chive dressing was what pushed me over the edge, luring me away from other options. That, I suppose, and the pecans, which I love but can’t get locally here in Northern California. What I hadn’t expected was that the farro — a humble, wheat-like grain — would be the star of the show, bringing a nutty depth to the dish that made it substantial enough to stand up to the rich main courses that followed.

I woke up the next morning dreaming about this salad, knowing I wanted to recreate it when we got home. I realized that with a few adjustments — walnuts for pecans, wheatberries for farro — I could make it entirely from locally sourced ingredients, making it a perfect candidate for our first Dark Days Eat Local Challenge meal of the winter.

Don’t be put off by the little ingredient-prep recipes that go into this dish; none are particularly difficult or time-consuming, and all of the parts can be stored for future use. And be sure that you’re picking through and using tender frisée leaves, as more-mature ones are unpleasantly grassy and spiky.

Autumn Salad with Wheatberries
- inspired by Hungry Mother; serves 2

6 cups loosely packed tender frisée leaves
3 to 4T buttermilk dressing
1/2 cup cooked wheatberries
roasted beet wedges equal to 1 large beet (or 2 to 3 small beets)
1 watermelon radish (or 3 to 5 small radishes), sliced thinly and cut into quarter-rounds
6 to 8 sweet-savory walnut halves

Toss all ingredients together, and serve on chilled shallow bowls or rimmed plates.

- Roasted Beets
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Scrub the beets and trim off tops and tails. Place in a baking dish about as deep as the beets are tall, and add 1/4 inch of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake until the beets are barely tender through (run a toothpick or cake tester through the center), about 45 minutes for large beets, 20 to 30 minutes for smaller ones. Remove from the oven and let sit, covered, for 5 more minutes. Uncover the beets, rub off the skin, and trim the tops and tails again. Cut into wedges and season to taste with salt. If not using within an hour or so, toss with a bit of olive oil; they will keep a few days in the fridge if well covered.

- Cooked Wheatberries
For the 1/2 cup cooked wheatberries the salad requires, you’ll need 1/4 cup uncooked. However, it’s hard to cook less than 1 cup at a time. Leftovers freeze well, and they make a great base for grain salads, or in place of cooked rice in soups.

Soak the wheatberries overnight, or for at least a few hours. Bring the berries to a boil in a large saucepan of salted water. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until tender but not blown out, about 2 hours. (Depending on freshness, wheat variety, and soaking time, this can take as little as 45 minutes or up to 3 hours.) When cooked, drain the berries and set aside.

- Buttermilk-Green Garlic Dressing
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Champagne vinegar (or white-wine vinegar)
1 stalk green garlic, minced, or 1T minced chives
coarse-ground black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

- Sweet-Savory Walnuts or Pecans
adapted from Epicurious

2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1T egg white
1 cup walnut or pecan halves (about 1/4 pound)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a rimmed cookie sheet, or line it with parchment.

Whisk together sugar, salt, and paprika in a small bowl. Whisk egg white in a medium bowl until frothy, then stir in nuts, mixing until evenly coated with egg white. Add sugar mixture and toss to coat.

Spread the nuts in the pan in a single layer. Bake, stirring once or twice, until dry and well toasted, about 20 minutes. Loosen nuts from pan, then cool completely.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:

Massa Organics, Hamilton City: wheatberries
Star Route
, Bolinas: frisée
Mariquita Farm
, Watsonville: beets, watermelon radish
Glashoff, Fairfield: walnuts
Clover Organic, Petaluma: buttermilk, yogurt
Eatwell Farm, Dixon: Pastured eggs (for mayo)
Bariani, Sacramento: olive oil
Katz, Napa: Champagne vinegar
Knoll Farms, Brentwood: green garlic
Guisto’s Vita-Grain, South San Francisco: sea salt
Range Brothers, Capay Valley: pork chop

Exemptions: sugar, peppercorns

Boston, Dark Days challenge, locavore, recipes



Comment by Jennifer Hess

We will get to Hungry Mother ourselves someday, but until then, I thank you for the salad inspiration. I’m slightly obsessed :)

Posted on 12.19.10 at 3:29PM

Pingback by Dark Days 10/11 :: Weeks 1 & 2 Recap (Group 2) « (not so) Urban Hennery

[...] (Married …with dinner) were traveling for week 1, but found inspiration with a winter salad of frisée, wheatberries, and other treats. My husband’s bad cold torpedoed our menu plan for [...]

Posted on 12.19.10 at 3:56PM

Comment by Liz the Chef

I am drooling over your post, particularly that dressing! This might be the salad for our Christmas lunch – thanks so much.

Posted on 12.19.10 at 3:58PM

Comment by Lee

Your prep pictures are particularly gorgeous for this one. I’m definitely making this soon!

Posted on 12.21.10 at 3:21AM

Pingback by East Meets West — Last Night's Dinner

[...] So I was a little tickled when, in the midst of much discussion and tweeting about a certain salad Anita (and I, despite never having tasted the original myself) fell hard for during her (and [...]

Posted on 12.23.10 at 11:17AM

Comment by Diane

Of course you can get pecans in California. Is Chico too far away? Or Orland. Or Corning? They all seem to have pecan farmers.

Posted on 01.09.11 at 7:43PM

Comment by Anita

Hi Diane: I should’ve been more specific: We can’t get them in the Bay Area. None of the farmers at our local markets grow pecans. And yes, Chico is beyond our 100-mile radius. We make exceptions for small-farm products grown a bit beyond our borders, but if we have to buy them commercially it really goes against the spirit of the Dark Days challenge.

Posted on 01.11.11 at 10:58AM

Comment by Dale

Have you abandoned the Dinner on a Deadline series?

Posted on 01.23.11 at 9:02AM

Comment by Zoomie

I just saw a comment by you on someone else’s blog and visited yours. How could I have forgotten how beautiful yours is, and how interesting? Like Arnold, I’ll be back!

Posted on 02.23.11 at 10:50AM

Comment by unruly rebel

this was delicious, totally…

Posted on 05.20.11 at 8:49PM

Comment by meg

i LIVE in boston and still haven’t made it here, but after reading this post i’ll have to drop everything and make it over there. until then, thanks for the awesome looking recipe! can’t wait to try it out :)

Posted on 05.24.11 at 6:47PM

Comment by Myinnercheerleader

I am always looking for new salad idea. Looking forward to trying this one.

Posted on 11.07.11 at 7:44PM

Comment by Erin

Be still my heart! I moved from Boston to San Francisco almost a year ago now and I still miss Hungry Mother. It was one of my absolute favorite places to eat. So much so that I almost rented an apartment right down the street that I didn’t really like just so I could potentially be in close proximity at all times ;) So glad you enjoyed the experience!

Posted on 03.20.12 at 12:26PM

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