When I'm trying to pinch pennies, I often turn to random grains from the bulk bin of my grocery store. One cup goes a long way, and you're hard pressed to find any accoutrements that push a grain dish into the land of the lavish. But humble as grains may be, there's still something a little surprising about serving barley in place of rice, or bulgur instead of standard pasta.
It's for this reason—the element of surprise—that grain-based sides have always found a place on my Thanksgiving table. My mother serves a wild rice stuffing, gluten-free and vegan with lots of dried fruit and nuts. It's simple, quick, and a surprisingly excellent vehicle for gravy. And though I don't know that price was my mother's motives, these dishes may be your ticket to making your turkey day table more affordable.
The memory of my mother's wild rice stuffing was the inspiration for this simple Farro and Cauliflower Salad. Farro isn't your everyday grain, and therefore, in my opinion, it's the perfect candidate for a non-traditional yet special Thanksgiving side dish. It's dressed with a little bit of sherry vinegar, and made moist and flavorful in the cooking process by using stock instead of water. Last but not least, this farro gets a little class with the addition of currants, though not so much as to break my eight buck budget.
Shopping List: ½ pound farro, $2.50; purchased chicken stock, $2; 1 small head cauliflower, $2.50; ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, $0.12 (prorated); ¼ cup currants, $0.55 (prorated).
Pantry Items: Vinegar, Sugar, Olive Oil, Salt
Total Cost (for 4-6 portions): $7.67
About the authors: Phoebe and Cara are the co-founders of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a food and cooking website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. They have a heated, decade-long rivalry about whose Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie is the best. Their book, Big Girls, Small Kitchen, will be published in the spring of 2011 by William Morrow. Visit their blog here.
- ½ pound farro
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fresh picked thyme leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup currants, soaked for 20 minutes in warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
Place the farro in medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for 25 minutes. Drain and add farro and ½ teaspoon salt to medium saucepan. Add stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until grain is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed, about 25 minutes. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until most of remaining liquid has evaporated, 2 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, toss cauliflower florets in medium mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil ½ teaspoon salt. Turn out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until browned and crisp, stirring once in the middle, 20-30 minutes total.
Add cauliflower to farro along with vinegar, currants, and sugar. Season with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.