An anniversary of ours passed without much notice last week. Two years since we moved back to Huntsville. Two years since we packed up our cars in Houston and drove them east and then north, back to our home, back to the land of my soul. It seems silly to say that a place can speak to you in such a way, that a place can make you feel rooted more than any other, make you feel the peace of belonging. So many people say it doesn’t matter where you are; it’s who your with and what you’re doing. But not for me. For me it is also where I am. Here, tucked between the mountains and the river, close to my family.
When we first moved to Houston we were out shopping for a dining room table, our first big furniture purchase that we were going to spend wedding money on. We were on the freeway, heading away from the center of the city, when Gerrit’s car suddenly lurched and began shaking and we pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center and called the tow truck. When we got to the garage we learned it would take several days to fix. We were 30 minutes away from our apartment. We had been in town for exactly one week, and we knew absolutely no one. Gerrit hadn’t even started his new job yet. The owner of the shop and his wife offered to drive us home (when she learned where we lived, close to some of Houston’s best shopping, she joked that it was an excuse to get her husband to buy her a new purse). We barely had enough money at the time to fix the car, let alone pay for a taxi ride back to our apartment. We were so desperate and so uncertain in that new city, and their driving us home was one of the greatest acts of kindness I have ever been the recipient of.
A couple of weeks ago, Gerrit’s car did the same thing (different problem). Again we were away from home. But this time, we were out of town with my family. We had people to fall back on, people to get advice from. We borrowed one of my parents’ cars to get us through the next week.
It occurs to me, as I’m writing this now, that I live in so much comfort now. And when you live in comfort–when you know you have people to count on, money for emergencies, contingency plans–perhaps you miss some opportunities for divine moments, some opportunities for a stranger to step in and take care of you.
But if I remember this, if I remember where we are and how we got here, then every day here seems like a divine moment in and of itself.
Prep Time: 30 mintutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
This is an ultimate fall grain dish to me. A key here is cutting your butternut squash up small enough, so that it’s hardly noticeable, lending its subtle sweetness to the farro, some of the pieces slightly smashing. We ate it at as a main dish, but it would be perfect as a side as well.
1 1/2 cups farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup butternut squash cut into 1/4 inch chunks (about 1/2 of a small squash)
1 lb. mushrooms (button, cremini, or another kind you prefer), cleaned and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (about 1-2 big sprigs)
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Place the farro in a medium-sized bowl and pour enough hot water into the bowl to cover the farro by an inch. Set aside to let the farro soak while you prepare everything else (aka, while you are chopping all your vegetables).
2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and the butternut squash, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until the shallot is slightly browned and the butternut squash is just beginning to get tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms, and cook until they are beginning to get tender, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the garlic, rosemary, sage, and a bit more salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are beginning to release their own juices, about 3-5 more minutes.
4. While the mushrooms finish cooking, drain the farro.
5. Add the farro to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the farro begins to crack, about 2-3 minutes.
6. Add the wine, and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has been absorbed. Then add 5 cups of chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low so that it is simmering. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the pot and let simmer for 50 minutes, until the farro is tender. While it is cooking, lift the lid to stir occasionally.
7. When the farro is done taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. If it is a bit dry, add the remaining stock and cook, stirring, until the farro mixture seems creamy. If you aren’t serving right away, cover and let stand and then you can heat it back up with some of the remaining stock before serving.
8. Just before serving, stir in the Parmesan. Serve warm.