A few weeks ago, a friend and I met for lunch at Maman here in the city. It was cold—in typical April-in-New-York fashion, we’ve been vacillating between damp and chilly and summery warmth—and the restaurant was drafty. We huddled over cups of tea and had some much needed catch-up time. We were both out of sorts that week, for similar if separate reasons, and we gave ourselves credit for meeting up to talk about it rather than hanging onto the mood.
Maman’s menu isn’t exactly vegan-friendly; there’s a lot of cheese and egg, not to mention butter in the pastries. But it’s a really lovely menu nonetheless, and as I was eating there, I thought about how many of the salads and grain dishes could be easily veganized.
I ended up getting the “Tawni” bowl, which has farro, roasted sweet potato and cabbage, and a kale pesto. It’s topped with pickled onion, a sunny side-up egg, feta, and microgreens, so I asked for extra veggies in place of the egg and dairy. In spite of the modifications, it was delicious and filling. I wouldn’t have thought to fold pesto and farro together, but I loved how the bright, lemony pesto lightened up an otherwise nutty and earthy whole grain.
It’s been a while since I veganized a restaurant meal, mostly because I eat out rarely with the internship, and really simply when I do. This seemed like as good a recipe as any, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Spring is here, even if it’s showing up in fits and starts, so I decided to lighten up the recipe accordingly. I omitted the sweet potato and cabbage (though I wouldn’t do that in winter—they were great!), and I added artichoke hearts and baby kale from the farmer’s market instead. In place of egg, I used smoked tofu, which is one of my favorite fridge staples. If you can’t find smoked tofu (I buy the SoyBoy brand), you could use grilled, baked, or store-bought, marinated tofu instead.
Since making this tahini pesto, I’ve been hooked on tahini as a base in place of the regular oil. It tastes and feels a little lighter to me, and it’s my excuse for using tahini in as many ways and as many recipes as humanely possible 🙂 You could use my go-to (traditional) pesto instead, or any pesto you love. And, as with all pesto, you can use different herbs or greens in the mix.
Pesto Farro & Baby Kale Salad
- 1 heaping cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup water
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Salad
- 1 cup dry farro
- 1 cup artichoke hearts (marinated or water packed is fine), quartered
- 2 cups baby kale or arugula
- 4 ounces smoked tofu, sliced or cubed
Cook the farro according to package instructions.
While the farro cooks, make the pesto. Combine all of the ingredients into a food processor. Process for a couple minutes, or until the pesto is smooth.
Combine the cooked farro, kale, and artichoke hearts in a mixing bowl. Add the pesto. Fold the ingredients together to combine well. Taste the farro and adjust salt, pepper, and lemon as needed. Top the salad with the tofu and serve.
This is such a good grain salad for spring: hearty, thanks to the farro and the tofu, but still light and lemony. If you’d like to lighten it up a little more, you could try white beans or chickpeas in place of the tofu (or any other vegan protein that you love—I bet lentils would be good, too!).
Speaking of that weather, it’s persisting today and for most of the week. I’m hopeful that the April showers will do as the song says, since May is right around the corner. See you Sunday.