Tuesday, 14 May 2013 | 43 comments

Farro with braised radishes & their greens

I entertain the big questions with frequency but allow them to slide away unanswered with equal frequency, which is one of the 3,798 reasons I should probably never bear children into the world. This is a roundabout way of getting to my point, which is Dear Stephanie, I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Stephanie wrote me the kindest email weeks ago asking lots of questions, mostly answerable, except for one: How do you do it? In the parallel universe where I actually am “doing it”, I probably also return everyone’s phone calls, eat a decent breakfast more than once a week, drink coffee and wine only occasionally, and have found a natural deodorant that actually works (I’m back on Dove Unscented like a junkie). In that world, I know for a fact that I did not burst into tears last night when the can opener refused to cooperate on a 16-ouncer of San Marzanos.But I did (Ben, to his eternal credit, gently pried the can and opener out of my hands without comment). I generally have my act together so little that I felt phony and undeserving reading Steph’s email, wondering what I could say to this kind human looking for affirmation. You just can’t admit to someone Oh, you know, some days after a rough day at work where I question my life’s direction and the foreign aid industry and then struggle through a two hour commute home, I start crying while I’m cooking dinner over a dysfunctional can opener. That’s how I do it!But it is. It’s how we all do it, muddling through, these little people running around on the face of the earth tearing our hair out trying to make everything right. I would like to exude chill wabi-sabi vibes (nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect), but instead, I am a perfect storm of workaday sweat ethic, Catholic guilt, and big dreamer, wanting to serve and work hard and take care of everything and accomplish much—and then criticizing myself for every missed opportunity, every night I go to bed early, and every dirty dish in the sink to the point of total uselessness.
. . . .
It helps to focus on the low-hanging fruit, I think. Writing a book, for example, not that I would know, is a worthy pursuit, but sometimes you have setbacks, and also, it is effing hard and takes forever and you probably aren’t even writing a book even though you think you are. Now, I’m not saying that the big battles aren’t worth fighting. But there are those small, beautiful tasks in life that are relatively accomplishable.

These things keep me sane. They empower me. Being able to make a quick dinner, for instance, even if it’s just a nice omelette, is one of those tasks: I rarely come home after a crappy day and feel worse after being able to make a 10-minute dinner for Ben and I. (I often feel worse after ordering disappointing pizza.)

Growing radishes, similarly, falls into the category of Easy Work That Makes Me Feel Good. Outranked possibly only by lettuce and greens as easiest veggies to grow, radishes give concrete, harvestable proof, early in the season, that you can indeed grow things. Yes, you. Us! We, the people of the world of the crying-over-can-openers ilk. In about two square feet, I can continuously have about 25 radishes going, and it’s not even hard. Of course, having radishes means that you must do something with them, and after discovering cooked radishes a couple years ago, I’ll roast or braise them all at once, and then save for tossing into salads.

I made this salad for my own dinner one night, and then took we all took it to lunch the next day at work. Just like that (!), I fed myself and Ben and Louise lunch, too.

Small victories, friends. Keep fighting the good fight.

Farro with braised radishes & their greens

There is a little bacon in this recipe, which adds some really nice smoky flavor and depth. For vegetarian friends, I would recommend browning the radishes in butter in the first step as a substitute, and adding some smoked paprika in the step when you add the sugar and vinegar. For vegans, substitute your favorite fat, definitely add the smoked paprika, omit the goat cheese, and try to amp up the umami with some mushrooms along with your radishes—but it will be a different dish.

You’ll need

  1. 1 cup farro (you can substitute barley or other grains)
  2. About 10 radishes with greens attached, rinsed well
  3. 2-4 ounces bacon (this is about 2-3 strips of bacon)
  4. A few pinches kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon sugar
  6. 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  7. 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  8. 1/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (commonly sold as chevre)
  9. Black pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro, give a quick stir, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the farro is tender but still chewy and retains its shape.
  2. In the meantime, trim the greens from the radishes. Roughly chop the greens into 1/2-inch pieces. Remove any particularly stemmy parts.
  3. Trim the radishes at the root and the stem end, and then quarter them.
  4. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is very crispy, about ten minutes, turning the bacon once. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon or spatula to a plate.
  5. To the remaining bacon fat, add the radishes, continuing to cook over medium-high heat. Resist moving the radishes for a few minutes—they will brown and caramelize a bit on the sides that have hit the hot pan. After about 4 minutes, or if they start to smoke, stir the radishes. Allow another 4 minutes or so of cooking, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, salt, and cider vinegar and toss with the radishes, and continue to cook until the radishes are coated with the glaze-y mixture. Add the chopped radishes greens, toss with radishes until they are coated as well, and remove from heat. The radish greens will continue to wilt and cook.
  6. After it is cooked, drain the farro in a colander and give it a quick rinse in cool water (this is meant to be a warm salad, not a hot one). Shake the colander very well to get out as much water as possible. Transfer the farro to a bowl or platter.
  7. Crumble the bacon over the farro. Add the radishes and their greens, parsley, goat cheese, and any remaining fat or liquid in the skillet. Toss the salad. Taste for salt and pepper and season (it will likely need both).
  8. Enjoy warm or cold. Keeps well, covered, in the refrigerator for several days.

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§ 43 responses to Farro with braised radishes & their greens

  • Yes! to the ease of growing radishes, and I’d like to add beets to that list, too. Dinners that transform into lunches are an even bigger “Yes!” in our household. If you have a pressure cooker, I’d advice getting it out for the farro. It will cut down on your cooking time by about half which will probably help with the time balance, given your two hour commute. (Ugh.)

  • I think it’s the real, not so perfect act of facing any challenge and after getting knocked down, getting back up again that is inspiring anyway. I adore your words here, as I always do. For me, the fact that I’m legally blind and losing more vision means that I’ve evolved over the past ten years to appreciating the small tasks and daily life beauties on a whole body joyful scale – I’m thankful for that. That focus on the little things has also allowed me to improve my cooking even as my vision gets worse. On a harder day, it is sometimes the greatest victory just to do a load of washing and put some food on the table. And damn, let’s celebrate it. x

  • Olivia M.

    I’m glad I”m not the only one who really wants to find a natural deoderant, and who keeps going back to Dove unscented. I keep trying, and my bathroom cabinet is filling with my efforts.

  • Alvera roll-on! (re: the natural deodorant) I use the aloe and almonds kind, and it works better than anything else non-aluminum that I’ve tried. Not perfect, but really good. And pretty cheap at vitacost or amazon.

    And, as always, beautiful photos. :)

  • Amy

    Yes, yes, yes to everything said in this post. It’s funny, because just the other week I was thinking about your blog and the type of industry you’re in, and wondered the same thing that Stephanie did. I guess I need the reminder just as you, or anyone does, that we’re all just working through everything. And that’s all we can do. Still… I can’t help but think that some of us succeed at “it” more so than others. I admire your passion and time for your work (both official, blog, or otherwise).

  • Radishes! They are super satisfying to grow, I totally agree. And then you can pickle them for tacos, or roast them with chunked potatoes, or braise them for a delightful salad like this. Hooray!

  • i think i asked that same question as stephanie in a comment a while ago so thanks for answering! i’m still waiting for the proof that radishes and greens are easy to grow. i planted the seeds 6 weeks ago and they are still tiny seedlings. maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s a lack of light. it’s sad.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for this, Sarah <3

    (for lack of profundity, because I don't yet know how to respond, I'll recommend Alba's Tea Tree deodorant. Works like a charm!)

  • Heh. Just finishing up a post myself on gardening and the easy little transformations that happen right before your eyes. Such a big deal and a sense of accomplishment — much like finding a natural deodorant, I’d say (I have yet to conquer this one).

  • Michelle

    Yes, the simple pleasures in life. It’s what keeps me sane, too. That cup of tea in the morning. The feeling of breeze and sunshine on a bike ride to the store. A hug from a passing friend. A great song that comes onto the radio.

    We work hard. We all do. Every now and then I like to take a step back and ask myself: Is this really what I want to be doing with my life? And when I do it frequently enough, the answer is almost always yes. The sweat and tears are then justified, and I feel a little better.

    I was watching a documentary last night called Happy. I think you’d like it. Spending time on personal relationships, intrinsic motivators, and contributing to the world were all elements they cited to make one happy. At least science is on our side… for now :-)

  • I think is my favorite post of yours yet – thank you, thank you for your real world honesty. It is so appreciated!

  • That sounds all too familiar. At least I have the deodorant sussed. I make a mix of coconut oil, baking soda, tea tree oil and aloe Vera gel. Next time I make it will work out the exact quantities and will Share the recipe. Seriously it works wonders, coming from a previous Dove un-scented user.

  • Michelle

    A beautiful and honest post. Nothing is perfect, there is joy in the small things, and radishes are one of the best things of all time.

  • Terry Covington

    I am smiling at how many of us use Dove Unscented! But mostly, and more importantly, smiling at the wonderful way in which you express the imperfections of life and the lofty goals we have, and how it can sometimes seem so paradoxical but is also so worthwhile. Thank you for the reminder to look for joy and accomplishment wherever we can find it, in whatever ways we can manage it.

  • Love your honesty…I wonder if anyone ever feels like they’re actually “doing it” or if we’re all just frantically kicking our legs below the surface trying to stay afloat? And you’re right, it’s those small victories (like eating something that you have grown yourself) which make it all worthwhile.

  • Absolutely loved reading this – there have been more times than I’d like to admit that I’ve done the same thing over can openers! (I loathe them…) Beautiful post, and a stunning dish!

  • I guess we are of the same ilk–at least when it comes to dinner and can openers. Haven’t had a cooked radish this year yet. What was I thinking!? thanks for the grace and the reminder, all around.

  • I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I’d just like to say that, really, we need more people like you having kids! I’m sure you would be a great mom. I was skeptical of having kids my whole life but now that I have one it is amazing. Anyway, thoughtful post as usual. Thanks.

  • Agreed!

    Two cents: 1) never quit coffee, even in a parallel universe of perfection. Coffee is likely good for you. My grandparents have two cappuccinos every day and are 85. So there. Don’t quit the coffee. 2) I use Tom’s lemongrass deodorant – does the trick for me.

    Oh radishes! What a delight! Thanks as always for your prose.

  • I find that creating something – anything at all, like even the simplest of dinners – can make me feel on top of the world at the end of (or during) a crappy day. There have been plenty of can openers in my life (drawers that won’t close correctly, a pie crust that shrinks in the oven, a bike seat that won’t adjust, and on and on …), but I think sometimes that release is just as important as moving on.

    And I’m constantly on the lookout for new things to do with radishes (sometimes a bunch just seems never-ending!), so thanks for a new idea!

  • I have decided deodorant is all hype. Actually, I decided that after every commercial and natural kind I have ever tried eventually stopped working for me, one after the other. Now, I just use baby powder. If I get sweaty/stinky between showers, I wash up with a washcloth, then powder again. It works as well as deodorant ever did. I also keep meaning to make my own deodorant powder, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    Sometimes, I think that it’s a sign we are living as much as we possibly can, fitting in as much as we are capable of, when a little thing pushes us over the edge. I certainly have those moments. But making something pretty much never fails to make me feel better . . . assuming it goes well!

  • i love this. farro to can opener. radishes (plus greens!) to wild, honest imperfection. love it, with a passion.

    thank you.

    xo,
    m

  • As someone who also works in the aid industry, it’s is hard not to have questions about the good we accomplish. Melt-downs with can openers are part of life, but thank you for sharing it on your blog, and not giving a version of the perfect life. The salad looks delicious, comfort food for the summer!

  • Lara

    Alvera deodorant keeps my stinky pits from smelling! Nice recipe, thanks

  • Prilla

    After finally deciding to let go of the comfort of never sweating, I relinquished antiperspirant for deodorant. NONE of the expensive, natural brands I found worked for me. I finally found that coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch, and a few drops of essential oil (lavender and lemon verbena is nice) do the trick. My shirts don’t smell after a whole sweaty day in them. I guess a little reality in the form of sweat and other meltdowns never hurt anyone :)

    Ps. 1/2 cup + 1 1bsp corn starch, 1/3 cups baking soda (less if you get a rash), 5 tbsp coconut oil + scent

  • So many deodorant recommendations! I have the best readers :)

  • yes, so much this. just shared some sage advice with a struggling friend–she just gave birth to baby #2–advice that was passed onto me in a time of struggle–to think about what feels good, and let that be the guiding principle. because you know you are going to meet your responsibilities, and do those things that have to get done, so in whatever intervening time is left, it’s not so bad to do things that feel good–no matter how little or seemingly insignificant.

    another line I hear in my head a lot, from my counselor–”Nishta, is anyone going to die if you don’t do __ tonight? Is the world going to end?” that rhetorical question often allows me to go to bed, take a bath, drink a glass of wine–enjoy this moment, for it, too, will not last.

  • There is always too much to do, so much that can weigh on you still at the end of a long day. I often find myself in that position, especially now that I’m teaching, and it’s always good to have someone else (hopefully Ben in your case!) to help you put things in perspective, to help your realize that you’re being too hard on yourself (because you often are). But in any case, with radishes like that, I think that you must be doing just fine, more than fine really.

    I have never cooked radishes (in fact, I’m pretty sure that Nigel Slater cautions against it at the very back of Tender!), but this salad of yours looks lovely, so I think that I may have to cook contrary to dearest Nigel’s advice very soon. I will have to start a second sowing of radishes, maybe even today if there’s time. You’re right–they are very easy-going.

    P.S. The chicks! So amazing!

  • Christine

    This post is tauntingly well written. Thank you for inspiring, again.

  • Becki

    My husband made this tonight (he will eat anything with farro, and we had a big big bunch of CSA radishes) and we loved it. I have never had braised radishes before, and they are terrific! Thanks so much!

  • So here is one more deodorant recommendation – make your own! I’ve become addicted to this stuff, because it actually works better than any ‘natural’ deodorant I’ve yet tried (and I have tried. them. all!!!) … and since you are already flying your hippie flag with the kombucha and all, why not? Here is a link to the basic recipe:
    http://mygoodcleanfood.com/2012/05/08/pit-paste-and-not-as-good-as-amandas-banana-muffins/

    Happy radish growing, and lunch making, and life living to you and yours. :)

  • I’ve never been able to like radishes, but I’ve just been converted, sitting here at my dinner table, eating them braised. (It might be the bacon.)

  • I really needed to hear this today. I’ve been sitting here writing a dissertation chapter off and on, all while constantly berating myself for not having morphed into Super Woman and gotten more done (I mean, why can’t I write 2 pages an hour like I could in college?!). In other words, it’s nice to hear the reasonable words of another human being who suffers through the same crazy need to do it all. But recently, I’ve been thinking it all comes down to gratitude, a word that keeps popping up everywhere these days, so I’m trying to focus on what I do achieve instead of what I think I should achieve. And I’m with you on the radish front: mine are sprouting upwards as I type and I’m so so thrilled about them.

  • emma

    wonderful post!

    also…lavilin cream deodorant! it’s the only one that’s ever worked for me :)

  • Most of the blogs I read paint the picture of a super-do-it-all-woman. It makes sense that we want to share the things that make us happy rather than the daily drudgery or difficult moments, but it’s good to remember that we’re all human and we should not feel dissatisfied when our lives do not look like the pretty picture we paint when we write. Thanks for doing just that.

    And here’s my favorite new deodorant: http://www.healthhomehappy.com/2009/08/home-made-natural-deoderant-with-baking-soda-coconut-oil-and-rosemary-oil.html

  • LIke always, your interpretation of the universe just makes me smile and breathe a sigh of relief; can openers are only the beginning, depending on the day. I have been known to use a chef’s knife to whack an X into the top of a can in lieu of battling with a mediocre can opener.

    I may have said this before, but I really appreciate that you tell stories about life where everything is not all shiny and happy and perfect all the time, where things are beautiful and inspiring, but also tough sometimes. Seeing real people work through real life, with all its travails and absurdity, is what inspires me. So thanks for that! And just think, you’ll probably have a glut of garden toms soon enough, and no need at all for that pesky can opener.

  • Thanks for this recipe. Made it over the summer when I had the house to myself and adored it, and then took a risk and made it for my husband, my sister, and her boyfriend. Maybe it was the bacon and the goat cheese, but I think they were all converts. Gotta love a bacon-braised radish.

  • “I rarely come home after a crappy day and feel worse after being able to make a 10-minute dinner for Ben and I. (I often feel worse after ordering disappointing pizza.)”

    I could not agree more. I have said this before too yet strangely pizza continues to be ordered by so many. I think one of the secrets to “holding it together” is to cook more and eat less (quality over quantity). To simply take the time to create your own meal (even grow your own food) and to focus on your fork-full (appreciating the taste and texture, the effort of what you have created); so rewarding, even if it is just a perfectly toasted slice of bread.

    This was a beautiful post!

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