Herbed Farro with Eggplant and Mango
Eggplant is an unusual and intimidating character when tasked to prepare it yourself. But when successful, it's meaty texture and earthy taste are immensely satisfying. After many failed attempts at cooking them all sorts of ways, I've settled on two solid methods - thanks mostly to Yotam Ottolenghi. If you like vegetables even half as much as I do, you should grab one of his books. Plenty and Plenty More are both filled with luxurious and hearty Israeli vegetable recipes. Only problem - the majority of his recipes have upwards of 20 ingredients. So while delicious, they are not really aimed at beginners or those short on time and/or patience. So I've taken his eggplant cooking method and mashed it up with my soon-to-be-signature veggie / grain / vinegar bowl. So give it a try.
Eggplant is best in the summer, but can easily be found year-round at just about any grocery store. Just pick one that is heavy and without scars. The recipe here uses the pan-fried method and I'll explain the other soon.
Herbed Farro with Mango and Eggplant
Adapted from Plenty
1 cup farro or barley
1 large eggplant, cut into dice-sized cubes (or a bunch of baby eggplant, halved as pictured)
1 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed (or use frozen, thawed in the fridge)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried mint (dried mint is a far cry from the real thing but it'll do in a pinch)
1/2 cup cilantro or basil (or both), chopped
zest and juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon honey
Combine rice vinegar, smashed garlic clove, red chili flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and honey in a small saucepan and warm. Remove from heat, add lime juice and zest. Let cool while you prepare the rest.
Combine farro or barley, 3 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. It should be tender and bitey. Drain the excess liquid and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large non-stick skillet until hot. Add diced eggplant and cook until all sides are golden-brown. Place cooked eggplant in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt to drain. Best to only cook as much as will fit in a single layer at a time - it may take a couple batches.
Combine cooked farro, cooked eggplant, diced mango, sliced red onion, diced herbs, and cooled vinegar sauce (without the garlic) in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
Eggplant is a great source of fiber, as are all fresh vegetables. It's also high in calcium, folic acid, and antioxidants.
Culinary herbs like mint, parsley, basil, and cilantro have powerful antioxidant qualities and are great here, because you use them generously. They are also useful as a digestive aid. Have outdoor space or a sunny window? Grow a potted herb garden! The cost of one plant is about the same as buying cut herbs in the store. And you can keep cutting from it all season long (or longer if you have a green thumb).
Oh farro. If you have leftover farro (and I suggest you make sure you do - here is a wonderful tutorial on freezing leftover grains), heat some up with butter and fresh grated parmesan for a serious treat. Also an easy and much healthier version of mac-n-cheese - in case you're in need. Or add some almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and dried cranberries and simmer until hot for a nutritious and filling breakfast.