I tend to cook big.  Feeding a family of four — even when two of the four are very little — is no small undertaking.  In our case, work-from-home jobs and food allergies team up to ensure that we eat the vast majority of our meals at the kitchen table (or out of a brown bag).  So I like to cook things that last a while, that are as good for lunch as they are for dinner (the number of bean and veggie chili burritos we’ve eaten in the past few months could feed a small army for a year at least), and that please everyone at the table (always a challenge with the “I don’t like my spaghetti ‘dirty’ ” crowd).

Our kids like grains.  Rice, couscous, barley — you name it, they’ll eat it.  They like vegetables, too, often enough, but never, NEVER, when they’re touching other parts of the meal (though our four-year-old is slowly growing out of this — the first time he took a bite of a burrito and without thinking said, “mmm!” I nearly fell out of my chair.).  I don’t understand it, but I accept it, for now.  It’s easy enough to indulge.  Cook a grain, cook some vegetables (maybe leave some raw).  For the more adventurous eaters, combine them.  Keep them separate for the faint-at-heart.

This recipe doesn’t sound like something kids would like, but it’s really very accommodating.  If you can’t find farro, try pearl barley or Israeli couscous.  Don’t love zucchini?  How about asparagus, eggplant, or portobello mushrooms instead?  Maybe add some peas, corn, or cherry tomatoes.  Don’t have a grill?  Roast your veg instead.  Can’t fathom a meal without protein?  Toss in a few grilled shrimp or some cheese (anything from fontina to feta would be good).  The only requisite ingredients are fresh herbs, a big, fat lemon, and some good oil and vinegar to dress things up.

Farro and grilled vegetable salad

Yield:  About 12 cups.

2 1/2 c. farro

4 red peppers, cored and quartered

3 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 3/4″ slices

3 summer squash, cut lengthwise into3/4″ slices

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 small red onion, chopped fine

Two handfuls fresh herbs (I like a combination of basil, mint, and parsley), finely chopped

Juice of one large lemon

White wine vinegar, to taste

Soak farro in cold water for 30 minutes (while you prep the vegetables).  Drain.  Transfer to a medium saucepan, add fresh water to cover by about 2 inches, and season with a generous pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until farro is tender, about 20 minutes.  Pour into a colander, then run farro under cold water to stop the cooking.  Set aside to drain.

While farro cooks, heat the grill.  Toss vegetables with just enough olive oil to coat, season with salt, and arrange on the grill rack, placing the peppers skin-side down over the hottest part and the squash over the cooler parts.  Cook peppers until skins are black and blistered, then transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic (this steams the peppers, making the skins easier to remove).  Cook squash until browned and softened but not mushy or falling apart.

When peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off and discard blackened skins and cut peppers crosswise into strips.  Cut squash into bite-sized pieces.  Combine farro, peppers, squash, red onion, herbs, and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Salad keeps nicely for a few days in the fridge.  Serve at room temperature.

Make it wheat-free: Barley is a good substitute for farro in this recipe.  There’s no need to soak it first.

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