Black Pepper and Lemon Sauteed Vegetables with Farro

 Turn a simple saute of vegetables into a main dish by serving it with a flavorful lemon and black pepper sauce and hearty whole grain farro. 

Dietitian confession - this past month, I've likely eaten more junk food than in the previous 6 months combined.  Our calendar has been packed with social events which, of course, often center around food.  And healthy food, it is not...

My month of indulgence started with a trip to Asheville with four of my best girlfriends.  When traveling, I think it's much more important to savor the experience than eat healthy.  In that spirit, the five of us ordered three (three!!) desserts after dinner at Posana Cafe - we were basically spoon fighting for the last bite of peach oatmeal pie!  Oh, and don't let me forget this was after we enjoyed an afternoon snack at our favorite chocolate shop!  Then, two weekends ago, it was Scott's turn to pick our date night, and what did he choose?  A BBQ buffet!  Shealy's BBQ is arguably the best in South Carolina, so it was definitely worth the splurge, but man, it is hard to control your portions at a buffet, especially when it's as good as Shealy's!  The next day, we drove to Folly Beach for a long weekend with Scott's family.  The first night, we all went out to Bowens Island Restaurant, which is famous for fried seafood.  Scott and I split a meal, which sounds like a good choice, except we ordered their giant seafood platter for two, piled high with fried fish, fried shrimp, fried oysters, french fries and hush puppies!  The rest of our meals were relatively healthy – low country boil, marinated coleslaw, a veggie packed potato salad (which I will share!) and baked oatmeal, what got me was the snacking.  Cookies, cheese crisps, and pimento cheese, oh my!  The snack attack got me again this weekend, which we spent at the lake with friends from Atlanta.  If you are what you eat, then I may be looking a bit chip-like this Monday...

It can be difficult to balance eating healthy with relaxing and enjoying social events.  Most people either a.) eat horribly or b.) completely deprive themselves.  Clearly I sided more with option a this past month, but usually I find with a little advance planning, it's possible to find a good balance.
It may sound odd, but I plan to overindulge.  Let's get real here, if I'm traveling or tailgating for a Clemson game, then I'm not eating healthy!  If I know I'll be overeating on the weekend, then I can at least plan and cut back a bit during the week.  The week before a social event, I plan our meals a little healthier than normal.  I eliminate meat and poultry, go light on my beloved cheese and avoid sweets and refined grains.  My nightly glass of wine also gets the axe.  If we do go out to eat, I make sure it's somewhere where there are healthy options available.

If we're bringing food, I make sure to prepare a few healthy dishes everyone will like.   This way I know there are some more nutritious options available.  For example, this weekend, we were responsible for breakfast.  I brought an asparagus frittata, whole grain banana bread, fruit, yogurt and whole grain bagels.  

Now that we're back home after a month of splurges, this weeks menu is filled with veggie packed meals.  Here's a glance:Monday - Vegetarian tortilla soup with avocado Tuesday - Braised endive, sauteed pea greens with almonds and garlic brown rice Wednesday - Ratatouille stuffed potatoes Thursday - Whole grain spaghetti with spicy chili pesto and garlic lime green beansLast night, I prepared this quick saute and served it over simple boiled farro.  It was a perfect, easy to prepare dinner after spending 3 hours on the road.  You could serve it over any whole grain you like - quinoa, wheat berries or whole grain couscous would soak up the sauce equally well.  If you're reading the recipe, please know 2 teaspoons of pepper isn't a typo.  I was worried too about the amount of black pepper, but it's delicious!  Start with 1 teaspoon if you're concerned it will be too peppery.  Also, make sure the peppers and onions are cut to equal thickness so they cook evenly.


Black Pepper and Lemon Sauteed Vegetables with Farro
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4
Adapted from Mario Batali Simple Family Meals
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and halved, quartered if large
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 8 cups spinach leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish
  1. Bring 2 cups of water and farro to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the water is absorbed. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  2. While farro is cooking, in a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the mushrooms, cut side down and sprinkle the lemon zest. Let the mushrooms sit in the pan for about 8 minutes without stirring. This will give it a nice golden brown sear.
  3. Add the onions and peppers and stir. Saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to high and allow any liquids from the vegetables to evaporate. Add spinach and stir to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon the vegetables over farro and drizzle with leftover sauce. Garnish with parmesan cheese if you like.