My first time adding farro to soup, let alone trying farro, and I was quite surprised by how much it brings to the dish. Not only does it create heartiness and comfort, it also brings new dimensions of flavor, texture, and satisfaction. If you are seeking a gluten-free alternative, simply sub in a gluten-free grain, such as brown rice, millet or even gluten-free oats.
This dish is easy, jam packed with flavor thanks to the homemade stock (recipe below), and brings to the table a plethora of vitamins and minerals to bump up the nutrient content in your next meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner? I enjoyed these leftovers at all three, and would say it is the perfect fit for them all, as it is that good.
If you’re in or have ever visited Los Angeles and have been well immersed in the vegan restaurant scene, then you would have had to visit Crossroad’s Kitchen in West Hollywood. They are now serving brunch 7 days a week…I know, WHAT!
I have visited the restaurant several times for brunch and dinner, and all of the food is always not only well presented but absolutely delicious. The food is served tapas style, or in small dishes and sizes, great to be able to order a plethora of dishes during your visit to get a more extensive taste of the menu. The only downfall to the menu, in my opinion, is their declination of substitutions or adjustments. Most other vegan restaurants in LA accommodate for the oil-free preference one may have, and I wish that Crossroads was able to do the same as it could easily be done in a handful of dishes.
Fortunately, this cookbook includes many of their revered recipes from their restaurant, and gives you the power to make any modifications as needed, based on availability of ingredients or personal preference, and to make the dish your own. My next projects for the future includes oil-free recipes inspired by their Warm Vegan Kale and Artichoke Dip, Lentil Skillet Bread & Baba Ganoush.
How to Make Homemade Stock
If you want to take your soups to a whole new level, the simplest way to do this is to make a homemade stock! Even if you are not going to make this recipe in entirety, I hope that you at least take this recipe or fact of the matter away from all of this. Not only is homemade stock easy to make, it is also a way for you to make use of any scraps of vegetables—peels, ends, and stems—to fortify the stock, so nothing goes to waste. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to utilize this technique, and it is now something I will be doing often! So how exactly do you make stock?
All you have to do is place vegetable trimmings and dried mushrooms (optional but recommended) in a medium saucepan, pour in 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. After boiling, reduce to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and simmer for 30 minutes more. Carefully strain, being sure to use the back of a wooden spoon to press on the solids against the strainer to extract as much flavor as possible; discard the solids! You should have about 4 cups mushroom stock for your soup 🙂
Chapters in the book include:
- Snacks and Spreads, a diverse collection of started that are inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean. These are finger foods that are perfect for social gatherings or light snacks when you want something a bit fancier than your usual. I have no myself made any of these recipes, but I spot three that are on the menu at Crossroad’s Kitchen that I have tried and can recommend: lentil skillet bread, baba ganoush, pistachio-kalmata tapenade and the warm kale & artichoke dip.
- Salads showcasing seasonal produce and including a combination of greens, fruit, nuts and grains to deliver satisfying and not-so-average dishes. These salads are robust in size, flavor and even texture and all feature homemade dressings. The best part of this section is Tal says himself to “Use your imagination, be flexible…and let your local farmer’ market lead you to ingredients…”.
- Flatbreads, a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. What I love about this section is the emphasis on creativity regarding flatbreads. It encourages variation of textures, temperatures, and flavors. Toppings can vary throughout the seasons, and depend on your personal preference or what you would like to explore at that moment. These are meant for sharing and are great starters for a crowd, or even as a meal alongside a large salad in the previous section.
- Soups can always be a hit for some as they can often be made one-dimensionally. People tend to disregard variation in textures and flavors when making soup, and turn to simple purees to get the job done. This cookbook emphasizes depth of flavor, and variation in texture. It includes how to make homemade stocks to amp up your soups (as included in this recipe), along with flavor combiantions and various techniques to take your soups to a brand new level.
- Small Plates focus on the fact that variety is inherent in the plant a grain world, with endless possibilities. These plates provide options for any mood you are in; for something comforting turn to theyr Creamy Polenta with Roasted Corn and Porcini Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, or for a celebratory dish of elegance try out the Artichoke Oysters with Tomato Bearnaise and Kelp Caviar. It is always also more fun to share a bunch of small plates with a group, allowing for a more well rounded experience and allowing all to get a real feel of what a restaurant (or in this case, what a chef) is really about.
- Pasta, starting from basic dough and transforming that into homemade Tortellini with Sun-dried-Tomato Ricotta and Sweet Peas. Fresh pasta seemed intimidating to me prior to reading how it is actually done in this cookbook, but after understanding how much of an improvement fresh pasta can bring to a dish, I think I will have to get this done at some point soon.
- Desserts, you won’t have to have me convince you that these are all going to be must try recipes. Oat Florette Cookies w/ Mocha Sipping Chocolate, Cannoli + Candied Kalmata Olives (what?!), Pumpkin Parfaits w/ Coconut Whipped Cream, Roasted Pumpkin Mousse, Spice Pumpkin & Almond Crunch Topping and Ginger Syrup. Oh, and all of these recipes are free of hydrogenated oils and cholesterol, can I get a what what.
- Cocktails, for times when you want to get a little fancy or unwind. If you love good food, you will definitely appreciate a well balanced drink alongside your meals. These drinks include house made coconut cream and simple syrups.
- Basics, where all good chefs must start. This section shares basic techniques alongside base recipes for build off from and where I am going to start off at in this cookbook to develop the skill I need to up my development in the kitchen.
The only thing in this cookbook that does not align with my personal diet is the use of oil, but which I understand as these are gourmet, restaurant oriented recipes created by professional chefs. There are definitely recipes where modifications can be made, like the recipe I have shared with you today or even the Pumpkin Parfaits w/ Coconut Whipped Cream, Roasted Pumpkin Mousse, Spice Pumpkin & Almond Crunch Topping and Ginger Syrup, so don’t be alarmed or discouraged! I love seeing how other chefs put together recipes, and I try to modify recipes as best I can according to my diet, which I encourage you all to do as well. It brings your creativity out in the kitchen, and it allows you to make a recipe truly your own, which I feel Tal emphasizes all throughout this cookbook.
Not only is the content of this recipe book extensive, impressive, and informative, the photography is breathtaking! The photos in a recipe book are always the most important part, as we all eat with our eyes, and will decide whether or not we are going to eat food based on presentation. The photos evoke emotion,
“Love Animals, Eat Plants, Save Lives” card by In The Soul Shine.
- 1½ cups reserved vegetable trimmings from the soup (onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic)
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
- 8 cups filtered water
- ¼ cup vegetable broth or water*
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms, (I used beech, white and portobello), wiped of grit, and sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup sweet Madeira
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- Truffle salt (optional, I omitted)
- Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ cup farro (see Note), rinsed
- 3 cups water, salted
- *If you are seeking a gluten-free alternative, try brown rice, millet or gluten-free oats
- Combine the vegetable trimmings and dried shiitake mushrooms in a medium saucepan, pour in the water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer the stock for 30 minutes more.
- Carefully pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof container and use the back of a wooden spoon to press on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible; discard the solids. You should have about 4 cups mushroom stock.
- Put a soup pot over medium heat and add the vegetable broth or wate*r. When heated, add the onion, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, season with salt and pepper, and turn the vegetables over with a wooden spoon, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and vinegar and stir until almost evaporated. Add the stock and simmer, uncovered, until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes.
- Put a dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add the farro, and toast, shaking the pan periodically, until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the toasted farro, stir with a wooden spoon, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well in a sieve and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.
- Stir the farro into the soup and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with truffle salt, if using, and serve.
Farro is similar to wheat berries but better all around, as far as I’m concerned. I’m crazy about its hearty nuttiness and firm but chewy texture. Popular since the golden days of ancient Rome, this healthful whole grain stands up to everything from salads to soups. It is a rich source of vitamins and nutrients, as well as protein and fiber. Farro is available in most grocery stores and health food stores. Look for the semi-pearled variety, which allows for speedier cooking. Toasting farro in a dry pan before cooking makes the flavor extra nutty. I cook farro just like pasta, uncovered, in plenty of boiling salted water, and then drain. Some packages call for cooking farro like rice, tightly covered in a measured amount of water until the water is absorbed, but I find this method makes it a bit mushy.
Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan! I was provided with CROSSROADS by Tal Ronnen to review on my blog, but all of the opinions shared are my own. I would not share a cookbook with you all unless I loved it!
Excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones. (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.