Superstar food on a budget

You shouldn’t really be shopping at Whole Foods when you are trying to save, unless you are a Superstar who just fired her staff and wants to try to cook her own veggie burgers, but isn’t ready for flourescent lighting. I go only when I need to buy the now cheap and chic but what started out as standard rations of the Roman legions. I love farro.
Nobody checks my cash supply to get in; I walk through those double doors like anybody else, help myself to a couple of bites of organic muffin samples and soft cheese and then make a bee line for the grains. I resist the island fruits and the maple syrup and the salad bar, all singing to me in their full-of-the-good-life-tones; the cost of any combination could threaten my life as an independent. Don’t get the spelt–spelt is not farro, but a mere mushy cousin. If there is any confusion I whip out my classy Latin and ask for triticum dicoccum. Exit.
At Trader Joe’s, a few blocks away–still wearing my big hat and Jackie O’s just because I can–I get my tin of plum tomates, fresh garlic, olive oil (I am dying a slow death without my La Macchia–but a budget is a bugdet) fresh basil and tiny balls of fresh mozzarella. At home (staffless) I pick over the farro (1/2 pound) for any weird foreign objects, give it a good rinse with cold water, and then soak it overnight in the fridge. Rinse again and in new water with a good spill of olive oil, salt to make the water taste seasoned, a clove of garlic and a sprig of thyme, bring it to a simmer for about a half hour until slightly chewy and softened. Drain well. In a heavy saute pan, drizzle some olive oil and add three to four slivered cloves of fresh garlic and eight to ten fresh basil leaves. When the leaves are dark green and the garlic a little golden, turn off the heat and add a 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or one whole pepperoncino. Squish the tomatoes with your hand and add to the oil. Turn the flame on, season with salt and simmer for five minutes. Combine with the farro. Taste for salt. Toss the mozzarella balls with a little olive oil and a teeny bit of raw minced garlic and freshly ground black pepper, and add those as well. Serve with shavings of Grana Padano (or Parmagiano Reggiano of you have been saving). Serve with a pickled zucchini salad, a bowl of black olives and red wine. All of a sudden, a poor man’s grain is no longer just a poor man’s grain.

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