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Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: A bright, fresh grain salad for long, summer days.
We're big fans of Bklyn Larder here at Food52. Owned and operated by the masterminds behind franny's (known for its chewy, blistered pizzas and vegetable-whispering chefs), Bklyn Larder is a small shop in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn that stocks a dizzying array of everything you want to buy: the best local cheeses and chocolates, the freshest spices, imported pastas and hand-rolled couscous, delicious house-made sweets like olive oil cake and dark chocolate shortbread cookies, and arguably the best selection of prepared foods in the Tri-state area.
Once or twice a month, I treat myself and stop in on my way to work for a buttermilk biscuit and coffee (breakfast), and a selection of a few small items to take with me for lunch. Everything is excellent: their tuna salad is beyond reproach, their soups are impossibly fresh (no limp greens or soggy beans here) and they have a spicy feta spread that may just be better than butter.
But the thing I crave the most is an unassuming little grain salad. To make it, they start with a base of not one but two grains: quinoa and farro (yes, technically that's one grain and one seed). To this winning combo, they add some chopped pickled fennel made in-house and a healthy dose of fresh dill. The result is an explosion of crunchy, nutty, fragrant and sour. I got so addicted to the stuff that I knew I had to start making it at home -- I couldn't justify multiple trips to Bklyn Larder each week, but I had to have this salad.
Plus, I had reason to believe Clara might like it too; she loves most tart things, and she's recently revealed herself to be a fellow farro freak. So I quick-pickled some fennel using this recipe from Amanda as a jumping off point, cooked up a small pot of quinoa and a small pot of farro and stirred it all together with a slick of olive oil, some of the pickling liquid and lots of dill.
I ate the salad for lunch four days in a row. Clara was skeptical at first, but she came around once she got past its somewhat drab appearance and got a taste.
Although I haven't tried it yet, I imagine it would be even better with some of the pickled ramps sitting in my fridge.
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
For the Pickled Fennel:
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed but with stems trimmed, quartered and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch planks
1 hot dried chili (optional)
2 sprigs dill
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
3/4 cups water
For the Salad:
1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled farro
1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely (1/4-inch) chopped pickled fennel
1 tablespoon fennel pickling liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup roughly chopped dill leaves (or half dill, half fennel fronds if you saved them)
Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom