Although I’m not on a first name basis with any of my neighbors, I do open doors for them, hold the elevator so they don’t get trapped in the basement when they toss their trash (one of my greatest fears), and faux smile when their dogs try to lick me (why?!). Plus, my daily domestic pursuits make the hallways smell good, and I always keep my Ludacris Pandora at a reasonable volume. So neighborly!
As I spend most weekdays alone in my apartment, I sometimes I think it would be fun to have neighbor friends. Based on the sounds of people walking around, playing music, practicing opera singing, etc. during the day, I know there are other cool (?) peeps working/hanging out, and it would be pretty convenient if we could have lunch dates. Right?
(I can’t really gauge the creepiness of this post so far, so please just roll with it.)
I had a small window of opportunity to make this happen last year, when I discovered that an old friend from college lived in my building. We bumped into each other in the lobby one night, and we were both like, “OHMYGODDD, what are YOU doing here?!” And then simultaneously, “I live here!” Turns out our apartments were actually on the same floor, two doors apart, but we had somehow never run into each other. Weird.
After some discussion, we discovered that his living room looked into my office. Uh-oh. I had obviously seen him many times (unaware of his identity, of course—the windows are like 100 feet apart), which was a painfully awkward realization. Before I knew what was happening, I blurted, “You never wear a shirt!” His response? “Yes, and you rarely wear pants.” Touché, neighbor.
Once we got over the fact that we’d been accidentally window watching each other for months, I proposed a lunch date. He was a grad student and studied at home a lot, so perhaps I’d just put a sign in my window when there was a fabulous lunch opportunity? He was on board with this idea, and we parted as neighbor friends. I was excited.
Sadly, that neighbor lunch didn’t happen. He ended up moving out shortly after our lobby encounter, and I never got the chance to put a fancy “Hot Lunch” sign in my office window. A new dude moved into his apartment, and I thought maybe we could be friends, but after a few weeks, he installed blackout shades and I haven’t seen him since. (I should probably start wearing pants to work…)
Anyhoo, yesterday I made Farro with Chipotle Glazed Acorn Squash, Kale and Toasted Pepitas. And after taking glamour shots, I thought, “Ugh, this would be such a good neighbor lunch.” I briefly considered bringing it to the girl that lives below me and frequently complains that Logan and I walk too loudly (a story for another time), but she’s kind of mean, so I kept it for myself.
Good thing I’m PSYCHED about eating this magical grain salad for a couple days. Nutty farro, spicy caramelized acorn squash, tender kale, salty feta, and crunchy pepitas tossed in a chipotle-lime dressing is a textured fall taste treat, and the flavors won’t quit. If you’re into sweet and savory flavor combos (and a little heat), I promise you’ll freak over this stuff. For real.
For those of you not familiar with acorn squash, it’s pretty awesome on both the taste and nutrition fronts. The pale orange flesh is mildly sweet and becomes so tender when roasted that it basically melts in your mouth. Unlike butternut, you don’t have to go through the torture of peeling acorn squash, which is glorious, and its ribbed exterior makes for very fancy looking slices. It’s also packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and plenty of B-complex vitamins that help regulate blood sugar, so let’s eat more of it, shall we? (Between the squash and the kale, I’m afraid my skin’s glow may actually blind people once I finish all six servings of this salad.)
As always, this recipe can be easily adapted to suit your tastes, market availability, and dietary needs. Increase/decrease the chipotles based on your heat tolerance. Sub brown rice or quinoa if you’re anti-gluten. Get creative with the cheeses (try goat for a creamier tang or Cotija for Mexican flair), or keep things vegan by ditching the dairy altogether. I’d really like for you to try acorn squash (please?), but if you can’t find it (or aren’t into it), feel free to use butternut, kabocha, or pumpkin. Whatever floats your boat.
Farro with Chipotle Glazed Acorn Squash, Kale and Toasted Pepitas is the sassiest of desk lunches (especially when eaten pants-less to the annoyingly wonderful sounds of Taylor Swift’s new album), but it’s also a delightful side dish for almost any meat or fish. If you’re in the progressive Thanksgiving camp, I highly recommend making this for the big day. It can be prepped a few hours in advance and served at room temp (minimal stress), and it looks very fall festive (maximum compliments). Hallelujah.
Farro with Chipotle Glazed Acorn Squash, Kale and Toasted Pepitas: (Serves 4-6)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large lime, juiced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotles canned in adobo
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 teaspoon good quality maple syrup
1 small acorn squash, washed and dried (Make sure to choose one that’s as uniformly dark green as possible!)
¾ cup uncooked semi-pearled farro
1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped (If you don’t like spicy, just use ½ the pepper.)
½ bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup pepitas, toasted
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Preparing your Farro with Chipotle Glazed Acorn Squash, Kale and Toasted Pepitas:
-Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
-In small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, adobo sauce, garlic, maple syrup, and a good pinch of salt. Briefly set aside.
-Now you’re going to massage some kale! Place the chopped kale in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the chopped chipotle pepper into the remaining oil mixture and pour it over the kale. Using your hands, massage the kale with the dressing for at least 2-3 minutes until it becomes tender and darkens slightly. Set aside.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotles canned in adobo
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
- 1 teaspoon good quality maple syrup
- 1 small acorn squash, washed and dried
- ¾ cup uncooked semi-pearled faro
- 1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped
- ½ bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup pepitas, toasted
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
- In small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, adobo sauce, garlic, maple syrup, and a good pinch of salt. Briefly set aside.
- Carefully slice the top and bottom of the squash. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy insides. Cut the squash horizontally into ¾-inch slices. Arrange the squash on the prepared baking sheet. Brush each slice all over with the oil mixture. (You’ll only need to use about 2 tablespoons total.) Roast for 30 minutes until the squash is fork tender and lightly browned. Cut half of the roasted squash into cubes, leaving the best looking slices intact (they'll be placed on top of the finished dish).
- Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook for about 15 minutes until al dente. Strain and set aside until ready to use.
- Place the chopped kale in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the chopped chipotle pepper into the remaining oil mixture and pour it over the kale. Using your hands, massage the kale with the dressing for at least 2-3 minutes until it becomes tender and darkens slightly. Set aside.
- Heat a small pan/skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add the pepitas and cook for 1-2, shaking the pan regularly, until they’re lightly browned and smell toasty.
- Add the diced squash, cooked farro, cilantro and toasted pepitas to the bowl with the massaged kale and toss to combine. Taste and season with a little extra salt and lime juice if necessary.
- Transfer to a platter or serving dish and top with the whole squash slices. Sprinkle with feta cheese and serve.