Food & Drink

A purposeful grain bowl full of delights

Charred broccoli, lemony tahini and slivers of radish top tender farro in this cozy and nutritious grain bowl. If you want to add a smack of heat, top the bowl with sliced chiles, hot sauce or kimchi.
Charred broccoli, lemony tahini and slivers of radish top tender farro in this cozy and nutritious grain bowl. If you want to add a smack of heat, top the bowl with sliced chiles, hot sauce or kimchi. New York Times

Most of the grain bowls that happen in my house are serendipitous.

Leftovers (last night’s sautéed greens, Thursday’s brown rice, a hunk of poached salmon) scooped into a bowl and garnished with various salty condiments (pickles, kimchi, fermented red chiles) and a sliced vegetable (radishes, carrots or cucumber) make a dish that is easier than takeout and a whole lot better for you. And then there’s the satisfaction of using up all those small containers of food your partner was about to throw out.

There are other times, though, when a grain bowl craving hits and the refrigerator is bare. That’s when you need a recipe like this. Vegetable-forward yet cozy, it has a variety of textures and a lemony kick to keep things interesting bite after bite. It’s a little more labor-intensive than raiding your leftovers, but still faster and more healthful than anything you can order in.

It starts with farro. Cooking farro until it’s tender can be tricky because there’s so much variation in what you can buy: It can be sold as a whole grain, a semi-pearled grain with some of the bran removed, or a pearled grain with all the bran removed. The more intact the bran, the longer the cooking time, which usually ranges from 20 to 40 minutes. To deal with this, I boil farro like pasta in a pot of salted water. If the water starts to evaporate before the farro is done, just add more water and keep going. This even works for the unlabeled bulk stuff from the health food store.

To streamline things, I boil the eggs in the farro pot, removing them when the yolks are still wobbly. Scrub the eggs well under running water; you want the shells to be very clean.

While the farro simmers, you can broil the broccoli until the tiny buds blacken and crisp, and slice up some firm juicy turnips or radishes for another kind of crunch. To tie it all together, everything is doused in a creamy, lemony tahini sauce with a velvety texture and garlicky bite.

Served as is, the dish and its flavors are mellow enough for kids. But a topping of sliced chiles, hot sauce or kimchi adds a smack of heat that is very adult indeed.

Farro Broccoli Bowl With Lemony Tahini

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

For the grain bowl:

Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed and drained

4 large eggs, scrubbed under hot running water

1 large head broccoli, cut into florets, tender stems sliced (about 1 1/4 pounds)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Thinly sliced Hakurei turnips or radishes, for serving (optional)

1 scallion, thinly sliced

Hot sauce or thinly sliced green chiles, for serving (optional)

For the dressing:

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving

1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons tahini

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add farro and eggs. Cook eggs for 6 minutes for very runny centers and 7 minutes for medium-runny. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to a bowl of cold water. Let them sit for 2 minutes, then crack and carefully peel the eggs.

Continue to let the farro cook until done according to package directions, usually a total of 20 to 40 minutes. Drain farro.

As farro cooks, prepare the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk in oil, a few drops at a time, until emulsified. Whisk in tahini and set aside.

Broil the broccoli: Position the rack underneath your broiler so that it’s at least 4 inches away from the heating element; heat the broiler.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss broccoli with olive oil and soy sauce, then spread the pieces out into an even layer. Broil until slightly charred in spots, 2 to 5 minutes, watching closely so that it doesn’t burn all over (a few burned spots are OK). Let cool slightly, then toss with sesame oil and sesame seeds and cover to keep warm. (You can also roast the broccoli at 450 degrees for 8 to 15 minutes instead of broiling.)

Toss cooked farro with 5 to 6 tablespoons tahini dressing to taste, a large pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Taste, and add salt and olive oil if needed.

To serve, divide farro across 4 serving bowls and drizzle with remaining dressing. Top with turnips, and sprinkle them lemon juice and salt. Add broccoli and egg to the bowl and garnish with sliced scallions and more sesame. Serve immediately, with soy sauce, hot sauce, and-or sliced chiles on the side if you like.