As if organizing a potluck/picnic for a bunch of food-obsessed parents and their toddlers wasn't enough to think about, I also had the mind boggling task of coming up with what the heck to bring to this shindig.
When fellow food blogging mommy Reservation For Three contacted me to see if I'd like to co-host our first ever GastroTots potluck picnic, I was thrilled at the idea of finally being able to hang out with the parents I frequently chat with on Twitter about food, restaurants, potty training and tantrums. But being that our guests were going to be some serious food nerds, I knew that a box of Albertsons cupcakes and Tostitos chips and salsa just wouldn't cut it. (Umm, not that I would normally bring that to a potluck anyway, right?)
First and foremost, I would need to bring something that tastes good.
It would also have to be something that didn't need to be reheated as we'd be meeting in a park.
And visually appealing.
And somewhat healthy as our kids would also be partaking in this feast.
And something that's somewhat easy to make since time is always so precious as a busy working mom.
Fortunately for me, my Gourmet Today cookbook came to the rescue with its recipe for Farro Tricolore--a colorful salad of farro, arugula, radicchio, Belgian endive, tomatoes and pancetta that fit all the above criteria. It's also a recipe that will be sure to make anyone look like they know what they're talking about in front of all of their foodgeeky friends. Farro? It means you buy your food at places other than Vons. And then if you bought locally farmed organic vegetables for this salad, you might totally be able to bond over farmers markets and green grocers! High Five!
By doing a little prep work of soaking the farro and cutting the vegetables up the night before, it's a fairly quick and easy dish to make. The contrasting flavors and textures in this salad are just insane: it's got all kinds of delicious al dente, crispy, wilted, bitter, salty, sweet, acidic, nutty and peppery craziness going on.
Farro Tricolore (adapted from Gourmet Today)
1 cup farro (available at Italian markets or specialty grocers like Whole Foods)
4-6 cups arugula, stems discarded, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1 head radicchio, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large Belgian endive, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. pancetta, diced or sliced and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 basket of cherry or grape tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
First, soak the farro in water for about 8 hours. Go do other stuff--sleep, chop veggies, watch a Real Housewives marathon, whatever.
Bring the soaked farro and about 6 cups of salted water to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until al dente, about 25 minutes. It will look like the photo above when cooked. Drain and set aside.
Toss the arugula, radicchio and endive together in a large bowl. Note: the first time I ever made this salad, I neglected to remove the stems from the arugula and to tear or cut the arugula, radicchio and endive into smaller pieces. The salad still turned out fine, but I noticed that the arugula stems and bigger leaf sizes made it a less cohesive salad so I made sure I went with the smaller pieces the next time. Yes, it's more of a pain in the ass, especially with the arugula, but so worth it.
Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until slightly crispy. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels, leaving the pancetta fat in the skillet. You'll need that fat for later, so do not dump it or you'll be sorry!
Add remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil into the skillet and add the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes get soft and the skin gets kind of wrinkly but still stays on.
Add the balsamic vinegar scraping up any of those delicious smoky browned bits on the bottom of the pan and allowing the vinegar to reduce and thicken slightly.
Add farro and pancetta to the bowl of arugula, radicchio and endive. Pour the warm balsamic pancetta-fat tomato dressing over the salad and toss to coat. The greens should wilt a little bit.
The result is simply wonderful. And you will definitely not lose any cred with all your foodgeeky friends.
But wait, there's more!
Normally, goody bags at kiddie get togethers mean fruit roll ups, snack packs, temporary tattoos, stickers and minature bubble bottles, but thanks to Reservation For Three, her husband Max of Morning Glory Confections and some very generous businesses, our goody bags were a tad more grown up this time. We got:
-A box of Morning Glory Confections' amazing Fleur de Sel and Peanut artisan brittle.
-A coupon good for 15% off your bill at Cacao Mexicatessen
-A token good for one iced or hot 12 oz latte at Cacao Mexicatessen
-A coupon good for a complimentary klein of Belgian fries w/ any food purchase at Wurtskuche
-An $8 gift card to Colorado Wine Co.
-A coupon good for one free scoop at Pazzo Gelato.
-A coupon good for 50% off your meal at Spitz.
-A $10 gift card to Cafe de Leche.
-A delicious and adorable individually boxed cupcake from Delilah's Bakery.
I was so excited about my swag that I want to share a goody bag with one lucky reader! (minus the cupcake...sorry, it's hard to ship, plus I already ate it.)
Just leave a comment with either your favorite childhood food OR your child's (or childrens') favorite food by 11:59pm Wednesday 9/8/10. I'll draw a random winner on Thursday 9/9/10. Be sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win.
Good luck and thanks for reading!