Recipe: Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Beans and Feta

I started running for one reason only. Well, maybe two:  second helpings of tacos and/or that extra glass of wine. Sidelined by two slight but nagging injuries and five pounds gained, I made this Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Beans and Feta to help steer my food-loving face toward better choices. Bit players on the plate include walnuts and julienned cucumber and red onion- YUM! This is a hearty, filling, flavorful lunch salad yet still a lighter meal. You know, like, if you’ve been eating too many tacos of late.

Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Brand and Feta- this was seriously holy freaking yum good.

Farro Stuffed Tomato on Arugula with Black Beans and Feta
for two servings

  • 1 large, really good tomato
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula, well washed
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • 1/2 cup julienned red onion
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber
  • 1/2 cup black beans, I used canned
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnut pieces
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar salt, pepper, herb blend (Penzey’s Parisien Bonnes Herbes blend is mighty good)

Cook farro according to package directions. I added salt, onion powder and garlic powder to my cooking water, and used the “put the grain in the pot, ad two or three cups of water, cook until tender, then drain off all the extra water” method.

While farro is cooking-

  • slice tomato in half along its equator, and scoop out the inside of the fruit. Dice the part that you’ve removed, and set aside
  • divide arugula between two plates and top each pile with a tomato half
  • sprinkle onion, cucumber, diced tomato guts, beans (rinse ’em off in water first),  feta, and walnuts evenly between the two servings of arugula

When farro is done (taste it… tender + done), drain off cooking water and while it is still in the pot, drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil and half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over the grain. Mix in salt, pepper, and any herb blend at this point, too.

Fill each tomato half with the seasoned farro mixture. Drizzle arugula with a little more salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar and dig in!

Have you tried farro yet? It is one of the ancient grains that have been appearing in the markets recently. Along with quinoa and chia, farro has been cultivated for centuries, if not millennia. How does it taste? Well, I think of the grain as a larger, more mild and more tender version of barley.

It took a recipe this tasty to write up another blog post here on Branching Out on a Limb. I had intended to just snap a picture for my mom and tell her about my lunch creation, but the picture and recipe were too good not to share. This salad would also be great with beets, goat cheese, and pine nuts over romaine; turkey, dried cranberries, and hazelnuts over butter lettuce… please share your own great combinations!

Recipe- Homemade Dressing for The BEST Asian Chicken Salad

Click to link for purchasing info for Okami Chinese Chicken Salad Kit
Click to link for purchasing info for Okami Chinese Chicken Salad Kit

A couple stores around here sell a chicken salad kit by Okami with all you need for a delicious meal in one box, minus the lettuce. The sliced almonds, two kinds of crispy noodles, cooked chicken strips, (there used to be orange segments, too), and the best part- a really good salad dressing with Asian flavors. One store sells a double package that we can never finish (Costco) and the other store is out of my way.

But I love this salad…

The only solution: make my own. I figured I could do a better job on the chicken, too, and reduce some of the unnecessary junk found in the dressing, too. Lucky me, The Food Network came through with a dressing that after a few tweaks, was really close to the Okami kit. The special ingredient is tahini- the sesame paste you put in your hummus. The original recipe that inspired some of the ingredients and amount can be found here, on, my changes included the soy sauce and honey, and using a combination of toasted sesame oil and peanut oil- all sesame would be quite overpowering, if it is a toasted oil.

IMG_7652Asian Salad Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tahini paste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Whisk all ingredients together, that’s it! Drizzle about two tablespoons over 3 cups of salad greens. Suggested salad should include chopped chicken, Mandarin orange segments, toasted sliced almonds, and fried chow mein noodles or won ton strips.

And yes, the chicken was a lot better than the salad kit. I just took boneless breasts, sprinkled them with onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper, and grilled them for about four minutes per side. May take three minutes per side, don’t overcook.
KEY STEP: let the chicken rest for 15 minutes, and you will end up with the juiciest and most tender boneless white meat you’ve ever cooked.

Go make this, save money, get more real foods into your happy mouth and enjoy this soon.


Burros, not Burritos- Have You Discovered El Pescador Yet?

IMG_6619One of the first places we discovered upon moving back home to California was a leetle-beety-teeny-tiny fish joint El Pescador. In its new location, right across the street from the old, El Pescador now has an eat-in area for the patrons at least by ten times the original spot’s size. As a regular, let me say THANK YOU to the owners for this move! La Jolla has a bajillion places to eat fabulous food for all budgets, and if the absolute freshest seafood is on your list, do not miss this place.

IMG_6620El Pescador has a fresh fish counter with mostly local catches, but also offers popular items flown in from far-away sites. The menu features some of the best fish sandwiches, according to The Husband, and I love their seafood salads on greens. Check out their menu here.

IMG_6625You don’t order a burrito at El Pescador, you order a burro. And yes, they are pretty big. I finally ordered something other than the FABULOUS mixed seafood salad and tried the Burro of the Day- a halibut and shrimp (both local) monstrosity with black beans, fresh spinach and a yogurt based white sauce, served with salsa and chips. A two word summation: Holy yum.

IMG_6617I am a creature of habit and this really shows in my dining choices. I will order the same thing at restaurants- it is always linguini with red clam sauce at the Italian join instead of the special, only a ham and cheese sandwich at our favorite deli, never a turkey club, always the same three sushi favorites at every Japanese restaurant… enough was enough, and I have been loving it. Nothing like a public forum to hold myself accountable, yea, WordPress! I picked a winner Monday night… but might go back soon for that seafood salad?

New Restaurant- Bruski in Mira Mesa (Look, Table!)

We had a lot of fun when we first moved here, playing with literal translations of some of the Spanish names. Both of my kids had Spanish classes in their Hoosier school, and I tried teaching them as much as they would let me. Flash back to The Girl, two years old, putting her hand over my mouth after a day of hearing nothing but French, saying, “No more words, mommy.” Needless to say, foreign language lessons chez nous didn’t get too far.

Tonight we hit a new-ish restaurant in Mira Mesa (“Look! Table!”). There are several newer joints tucked into the same shopping center here, and all had a wait of at least 30 minutes. Except Bruski’s. Even though that doesn’t bode well, we went with it. One of us should have pointed at Bruski’s seating availabilities and said “Look! A Table!” I hate it when I miss a good bad joke.

Great beer selections, good chicken wings, The Boy approved of his standard Meat-Cheese-Bun Only burger, and we were happy enough to say we’d come back to try the mac and cheese. I had a Cobb salad that at a half order could have fed four people, and the bacon on it was dee-lish. The Husband was disappointed with the dry chicken on his Caesar salad. His Honey Chipotle wings tasted mainly of honey and were all right, but I think my naked wings were better.

Two tastes of beers from Brewski's- Belching Beaver HORCHATA Imperial Stout and Epic BRAINLESS ON PEACHES Belgian Ale. Both were too sweet for me.
Two tastes of beers from Bruski’s- Belching Beaver HORCHATA Imperial Stout and Epic BRAINLESS ON PEACHES Belgian Ale. Both were too sweet for me.

Next time it will be Epic Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout, because of the name, seriously. And Onion Rings, baby. Mama needs her fried food.