Rather than cook a pasta salad or even cook pasta & sauce, I generally reach for a less processed whole grain such as farro, bulgur, amaranth, or quinoa. They all provide so much more from a nutrient standpoint, they offer different textures for variety, and they are much more filling and satisfying. This farro dish could be a great addition to a Father’s Day cookout this weekend!
Eggplant, Red Pepper & Spinach Farro (V, DF)
Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):
1 package or 1 1/2 cups dry quick cook farro (I use Trader Joe’s)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
1 tablespoon canola oil (I use Spectrum Organic)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, diced into small cubes
1 large red Pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen and thawed or 3 cups fresh and wilted spinach (or kale, collards etc)
Fresh ground salt & black pepper to taste
A few shakes of crushed red pepper (optional)
-Place a large saucepan or stockpot over low-medium heat and add the canola oil. Spread w/ rubber spatula so that it coats the bottom of the pan.
-Add the garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown).
-Add the peppers and eggplant. Stir well and cover.
-While the vegetables cook and reduce, add farro and liquid (broth or water) to a stockpot.
-Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
-Continue to stir the vegetable mixture, adding small amounts of water if eggplant begins to stick to the pan.
-After vegetables have been cooking for about 15 minutes total and the farro is cooked, add farro to the vegetable mixture.
-Add the spinach, stir well, and remove from heat.
-Add a little salt, crushed red pepper, and ground black pepper to taste.
*If mixture seems too dry, add 2-4 tablespoons of water at a time until desired consistency is reached.
This farro dish is great warm or as a cold salad side dish. You can bring it as a side to BBQ’s this summer, or have with a hearty salad for lunch or dinner.
Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:
Farro is actually a great source of protein, fiber, the energy metabolizing B-vitamin niacin as well as magnesium and iron. It is rich in phytochemicals like lignans and betaine, which both reduce inflammation as antioxidants. Take a look at this great informational pdf on farro from the Chef & Child Foundation and Clemson University: Ingredient of the Month, Farro.
Eggplant provides healthy carbohydrates and fiber, as well as a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in moderate amounts. It’s the skin and color in eggplant though that provide great phytochemicals. Phenolics like caffeic acid as well as flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and heart healthy compounds.
Red Bell Peppers provide you with tons of Vitamin C (even more per serving than citrus!), lots of Vitamin A and fiber as well as Vitamin E, B6 and potassium. Phytochemicals include lycopene (associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer & heart disease) and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for eye and cardiovascular health.
Spinach provides lots of Vitamin C as well as calcium, thiamin, iron, B6, zinc, copper, riboflavin & magnesium. Phytochemicals provided include isothiocyanates, sulforophane & indoles – these can act to aid your immune system as well as reduce inflammation to aid in muscle recovery and heart health.
Canola Oil is my go to when I am cooking. While olive oil has great flavor and a good fat profile, canola oil actually has much more omega-3 than olive oil and even less saturated fat. I don’t eat animal products on a daily basis and my fish consumption is low, so using canola oil in cooking helps me meet my daily needs of omega 3. Since most canola oil in stores is genetically modified, choose an organic brand – it will still be cheaper than conventional olive oil.
Garlic provides the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health.
Nutrition Information (without lettuce or other toppings):
Servings: 6 (*Athletes may want to split into just 4 servings)
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: < 0.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 33.5 g
Fiber: 4.5 g
Sugar: 1.5 g
Protein: 6.5 g
Sodium: 75 mg 3.5 %
Potassium: 370 mg 8%
Vitamin A: 25% Thiamin: 5% Riboflavin: 5%
Niacin: 20% Pant Acid: 18% Vitamin B6: 8%
Folate: 20% Vitamin C: 43% Vitamin E: 10%
Calcium: 4% Iron: 10% Zinc: 15%
Magnesium: 20% Copper: 46% Manganese: 53%
Phosphorus: 4% Omega 3: 0.25 g (16%)
**vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns