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Culinary SOS: Farro salad with cauliflower from Bestia

Culinary SOS: Farro salad with cauliflower from Bestia
The farro salad with cauliflower at Bestia. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

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“I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.”

Toni Pe, a reader from Hacienda Heights, can’t seem to stop thinking about the cauliflower salad at Ori Menashe’s Downtown restaurant Bestia.

“I haven’t been able to get back there since it’s near impossible to get a reservation,” says Pe.

While cauliflower continues to be a fixture on just about every menu in town, instead of deep-frying or roasting his, Menashe finely shaves the vegetable and tosses it with a bright avocado purée. He takes the shavings and uses them to cover a mound of farro studded with toasted pine nuts, onion, chopped fresh herbs and a drizzle of red wine vinaigrette. And he finishes the salad with pickled Fresno chiles, mint leaves and shaved Montasio cheese.

You can find the recipe here, as well as in the new “Bestia” cookbook from Menashe and wife Genevieve Gergis, out this week.

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FARRO SALAD WITH CAULIFLOWER AND AVOCADO CREAM

About 2 hours plus cooling and pickling time. Serves 4

PICKLED FRESNO CHILES

8 Fresno chiles, seeds removed, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds

2 teaspoons sugar

1½ tablespoons kosher salt

½ cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, toss the sliced chiles with the sugar and salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil, cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, or until the chiles have reached the desired flavor. This makes a generous 1 ½ cups pickled chiles, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

RED WINE VINAIGRETTE

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the shallot and red wine vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, then drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to combine. This makes about ¾ cup vinaigrette, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week; whisk before using.

AVOCADO PURÉE

1 avocado

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons champagne vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted pine nuts

1 teaspoon fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, very finely grated

1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a blender jar, combine the avocado, oil, vinegar, pine nuts, fish sauce, salt, parsley and lemon juice and purée until smooth. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until consistency is smooth. This makes about 1 ½ cups avocado purée, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 days.

FARRO

2 cups farro

1 rib celery, cut in half

1 small carrot, cut in half

3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dry

1 Fresno chile, halved lengthwise

½ yellow onion, quartered

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 quarts water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a medium saucepot, combine the farro, celery, carrot, bay leaves, Fresno chile, onion, salt and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered, skimming off any foam that forms, for 30 to 40 minutes or until the farro is cooked but still has a firm, chewy texture. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes before straining.

2. Line a sheet tray with parchment and spread the strained farro out into an even layer and, using tongs, pick out all of the vegetables and aromatics and discard. Drizzle the farro with the olive oil and toss. This makes about 6 cups farro which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.

FARRO SALAD WITH CAULIFLOWER AND AVOCADO CREAM

2 cups prepared farro

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

¼ cup chopped mint

2 tablespoons rough-chopped parsley

Prepared red wine vinaigrette

12 whole mint leaves

16 slices of prepared pickled Fresno chile

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cauliflower, thinly shaved with a mandolin

1 ounce Montasio cheese (or Parmigiano or Capra Sarda), shaved

Prepared Avocado cream

1. In a bowl, combine the farro, pine nuts, diced red onion, chopped mint and parsley and drizzle with red wine vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper, and toss until ingredients are all incorporated. Do not over mix. Place on a plate.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the shaved cauliflower and avocado purée and season to taste. Make sure the cauliflower is completely covered with the purée.

3. Pile the cauliflower on top of the plated farro and garnish with the whole mint leaves, pickled Fresno chile and shaved cheese.

Each serving: Calories 668; Protein 8 grams; Carbohydrates 31 grams; Fiber 7 grams; Fat 58 grams; Saturated fat 9 grams; Cholesterol 6 mg; Sugar 3 grams; Sodium 723 mg

Note: Adapted from a recipe from Ori Menashe, chef/co-owner of Bestia.

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