A fresh take on an ancient comfort food

| 27 Feb 2015 | 04:32

Sit down to dinner in our Warwick kitchen and be prepared to travel. Some nights it’s to Thailand, Japan or Mexico, and often to Italy, a favorite destination of foodies. These nights I credit to Tom’s Grandma Bruna, who taught this Jewish girl from Queens the essentials of Italian cooking: ricing the potatoes for a fluffy gnocchi, the secret to achieving a creamy risotto (it will remain a secret), and adding a single prune (yes, a prune) to tomato gravy for richness and subtle sweetness. She created comforting real food, demonstrating how geography and culture influence cooking and the importance of honoring each ingredient. Choose the freshest seasonal ingredients and even the simplest preparation will taste delicious. This recipe does just that, combining asparagus, peas and early spinach to celebrate the arrival of spring in the fertile black dirt. These vegetables need just a quick sauté in olive oil and garlic, taking care not to overcook them so they retain their bright color and tenderness. Farro, the ancient Mediterranean grain with a firm, chewy bite, is a good choice to absorb these vibrant flavors. I like to cook farro in a well-seasoned vegetable stock, but if you use water, make sure to season it with enough salt. The semi-pearled or pearled varieties will cook in less than 30 minutes with no soaking required. Serve with a wedge of grilled radicchio and finish with a mound of pea shoots and shaved fresh asparagus. Grandma Bruna would have enjoyed this dish with a wedge of Asiago cheese and a glass of Vino de Uva. Buon Appetitio!