New Delhi : Our farm in upstate New York was a wonderful draw for friends from around the world who wanted to come, visit us and experience our idyllic life. Our city apartments in NYC and New Delhi are known for the fun energy we are told they have, and the relaxed way in which we entertain. No matter where Charlie and I make our home, the comfort and relaxation of our guests is our number one priority.
My secret to being a happy and welcoming host at the drop of a hat isn’t something difficult. Rather, it is very easy and simple: when a guest walks through our door, I encourage them to make our home their home, with full-on kitchen privileges! I think this is the surest way to get their ownership in the meal being served. It is also a wonderful way to indulge friendships and deepen relationships.
It takes the burden of cooking and cleaning away from any one person and makes for wonderful camaraderie. Take a similar approach around the laying of the dining table, choosing of linens, and other chores related to mealtimes and cocktails. The more you do collegially, the more vested everyone is in making the moment fun. It has the added bonus of keeping the host from getting fatigued.
Charlie and I were smitten when our friend Joyce Goldstein, the incredibly talented award-winning chef, trendsetter (she steered the cafe kitchen at Chez Panisse, one of the greatest restaurants in the USA for years), and author of more than 28 cookbooks, came to visit us at the farm. We happily cooked together and learned from each other. While I shared my ideas and techniques for cooking with Indian flavors, Joyce introduced us to farro, and how wonderfully delicious it is.
Farro is now always in my pantry. I love using it in this recipe for veggie burgers. In addition to protein and heart-healthy fiber, the texture it contributes is incredibly hearty. You can sandwich the burgers in a bun (top with tomato chutney) or eat it as a cutlet with chutney on the side. When Charlie, Raquel Pelzel, and I were working on recipes for our book Masala Farm, she came to the farm eight months pregnant and with her then four-year-old son Julian.
Both devoured these burgers with such voracity, that I am convinced neither missed the absence of meat! They are excellent served on buns or on their own with a green salad on the side. If you can’t find farro, you can make the burgers with quinoa instead, but do look for farro. It isn’t that difficult a find. It is also readily available online if you do indeed live in a culinary desert.
I am sharing this recipe for January 1st, 2022, in the hopes that you will give it a try sooner rather than later and realize the power of plant-forward cooking and eating. It is soul-satisfying and good for you. When done right, it is deeply delicious and makes the act of cooking and dining even more magical and memorable.
The planet is crying for us humans to be more mindful about how we live, and so the choices we make are very important. Cooking with vegetables doesn’t have to be difficult or a punishment. Of course, vegetables require more thought and care, and sometimes a tad more time. What they give back in return is plentitude that is healing for mind, body, and soul.
I am not one for making resolutions at the start of a new year. Instead, I strive daily to be a better person, and that has me at least making some effort to be more mindful and also to remember that I am but one person who is taking from this planet and affecting it as well. This knowledge of sharing a resource with others compels me to care about my choices and not just chase popular fads and diets.
It is my hope that 2022 is happy and joyous for all of you and that plant-forward cooking and sharing is something you will appreciate more deliciously as the year progresses. Enjoy these burgers and the promise of health and wellness that smart choices bring your way! Happy New Year!
3/4 cup/125 g farro
1 pound/500 g red potatoes (about 3)
6 tablespoons/90 g unsalted butter
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound/500 g brown mushroom caps, finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5 to 8/75 to 120 ml tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon/15 ml dry white wine, dry vermouth, or water
1/2 cup/50 g finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup/50 g panko breadcrumbs
Bring 2 1/4 cups/540 ml of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro, return to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low, cooking until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, fluff the farro with a fork, cover, and set aside.
While the farro cooks, boil the potatoes. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the potatoes, return the water to a boil, and cook until a paring knife easily slips into the center of the largest potato, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Once the potatoes are cool, peel them and place them in a large bowl.
Remove the needles and leaves from the rosemary and thyme branches and place them in a large skillet along with the butter and black pepper. Melt the butter over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the herbs start cracking, after about 1 1/2 minutes, add the mushrooms and salt. Cook the mushrooms until they release their liquid and the pan is dry again, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the potatoes and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon/15 ml of olive oil over medium-high heat in the skillet. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the wine (or Vermouth or water) and stir to work in any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Turn off the heat and scrape the shallots into the bowl with the mushrooms and potatoes. Add the Parmesan along with the farro. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the ingredients together.
Form the mixture into 10 patties. Place the panko in a shallow dish and press the top and bottom of each patty into the panko to evenly coat. Heat 1/4 cup/60 ml of olive oil in a clean large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 5 patties and cook on each side until nicely browned and crusty, 8 to 10 minutes total.
Remove the patties from the skillet and place them on a plate. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil between batches if necessary. Serve hot.
Disclaimer: The author of this opinion article is Suvir Saran, who is a Chef, Author, World Traveller.