Getting a satisfying “this is great!,” followed by “write down what you did and don’t change a thing,” (albeit from a rousing gallery of one) kind of solidifies that this particular plating will be a favorite in our nest for some time to come.
While I’d love to take all the credit for this dish, its inspiration comes from a recent night out. Reading recipes and trying new dishes at restaurants often serves to inspire the twists and turns I might take with a favored ingredient and a tried and true approach. This particular dish is a perfect example of doing just that... playing off the components of a salad enjoyed with our Seattleite daughter at Bar Cotto, one eatery among the several in Ethan Stowell’s culinary ménage; this one in Capitol Hill.
I happen to love farro for its nutty flavor and pleasing bite. (Plus it’s incredibly agreeable to a variety of flavors so it plates really nicely with a host of different characters.) While I traditionally take it down a more savory path, its pairing with acorn squash on the Bar Cotto menu was the selling point for our daughter… and it did not disappoint. As such, I committed the key ingredients… farro, acorn squash, green apple and pecans… to memory knowing that this dish would likely become a keeper.
My version includes arugula as I think this nutty little green gives a welcoming freshness to the warm and comforting notes that stand out in this salad. And, if you’re thinking of this as a main course option, I think the arugula lends a more developed composition. The acorn squash, roasted in my version, is subtly sweet. And… when mixed with still-warm farro it beautifully softens, lacing a whisper of sweet flavor throughout the salad. This subtle sweetness is more than pleasingly enhanced by a generous sprinkle of sugar-maple pecan halves and an awakening pop of sliced green onion… a needed bite of yang to this salad’s comforting yen. And then, of course, there’s the fresh apple… a bright Granny Smith in my take. Bits of little matchstick cuts of apple lend a crisp, fresh component that marches along the same brightening path as the arugula and green onion in balancing the more subtle tones of the farro and squash. I truly don’t remember if there was a dressing on the Bar Cotto version but upon tasting my own rendition I believed it needed just a tad and the orange-maple-balsamic vinaigrette I whisked together does it perfect justice.
Though I don’t pretend to be well versed in vegan fare, I believe that with attentive sourcing (pure maple syrup and brown sugar that’s not laced with lard… surprising, but apparently possible), it would be a great vegan option. In this particular plating, we coupled it with a simply sautéed salmon. So good! I won’t change a thing.