At Home with Susan Spungen
We were first introduced to Susan Spungen through her beautiful recipes featured in the New York Times, and were delighted with her approach to cooking. Fast forward a couple of years later, and Tre – one of our co-founders – had the pleasure of dining with her at Canal House, in celebration of the launch of her latest cookbook, Veg Forward. Read on as she shares a warming dish that’s perfect to dig into as we get cozy, and sink into the Autumn months.
Susan tells us, “I wanted to create a book not just for vegetarians, but for anyone who loves vegetables or wants to love vegetables. You know they're good for you. Good for the planet. Good for your pocketbook. And they're just, well, good, providing that you know what to do with them. Whether you get your vegetables from a CS (ours is the pick-your-own kind), a farmers' market, a farmstand, a backyard garden, or the supermarket, I want a book to inspire you to cook them in new and delicious ways that bring them to the center of your plate. The veggies in these recipes are driving the bus; they're not just along for the ride. Every idea for every recipe puts the vegetables first. They are never just tacked on as an afterthought. They are the "meat" of the meal. I didn't set out to create a book that was completely vegetarian just vegetable forward-but the more I concentrated on the vegetables themselves, the less need I saw for meat.”
Susan chose the Leek and Squash Farrotto to share with the Ordinary Habit community because it seems just perfect for this cozy time of year! She tells us, “Like the starchy rice varieties used for risotto, pearled farro also releases its starch into broth when cooked in the same style: stirred frequently, with hot liquid added gradually. The result is both creamy and comforting. Butternut squash cubes get a head start cooking in the broth, adding to the creaminess.” — Enjoy!
Leek and Squash Farrotto
Like the starchy rice varieties used for risotto, pearled farro also releases its starch into broth when cooked in the same style: stirred frequently, with hot liquid added gradually. The result is both creamy and comforting. Butternut squash cubes get a head start cooking in the broth, adding to the creaminess.
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
8 ounces butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon butter
2 large leeks, halved lengthwise, sliced into half-moons, and well washed (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1-1/2 cups pearled farro, rinsed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 fluffy cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce), plus more for serving
1. Combine the stock and the squash in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes until slightly softened. Keep warm over low heat, covered.
2. In a wide, shallow saucepan, heat the oil and 2 teaspoons butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and rosemary, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the leeks are wilted. Add the farro and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute.
3. Add a ladleful of the stock and some of the squash, so the farro is thinly veiled in liquid. Cook at a brisk simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, and adding another ladleful when the first is nearly absorbed. Continue in this way for 20 to 25 minutes, until the farro is al dente. Add a little more liquid as needed to loosen.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the cheese. Serve in warm shallow bowls with more cheese on the side.
If you want a little more heft and aren't a vegetarian, skip the olive oil and butter and render the fat from some bacon, frying it until crisp. Remove the bacon, leaving some or all of the fat in the pan. Sprinkle the finished dish with the crisp bacon.
Garnish with toasted pepitas and a drizzle of nutty pumpkin seed oil to amp up the earthy flavors.
Getting to know Susan:
Your go-to dish?
I love braised meats in the wintertime, classics like Coq au Vin or Boeuf Bourguignon or Osso Buco. They are so good, you can make ahead, and they yield great leftovers.
A dinner-party short cut?
Dress up good store-bought dips by transferring to a pretty bowl and adding fresh garnishes.
One ingredient that you couldn’t live without?
Onions, obviously, because they start almost every dish I make.
Ideal dinner venue or menu?
Gathering a few friends around our table, the same one we’ve been eating at for almost 25 years!
What’s your favorite rule or rule to break?
That you can’t shoot a cookbook on an iPhone!