Sooner or later the lines get crossed. Like that time eight of my family members decided to rent a house in the teeny Tuscan town of Camaiore and it went surprisingly well -- until it didn't.
I wanted to spend as much time in the beachside town of Forte Dei Marmi. With my nephews, I built sand castles and sorted through seashells; with my brother, I had a lunch of fish and local white wine; and finally, with my mother and sister, I spent the late afternoon shopping. All was hunky dory, until we realized we had locked ourselves out of the house. Fingers got pointed, the little ones melted down, and operatic-level drama ensued. We split into two camps: the men ran to the hills for a drink while, the kids and the girls, did what anyone would do in the situation: we got gelato.
And then there was a turn of luck — having taken the same route everyday, we had missed the 13th century bell tower, the pocket sized town square, and the mile-long walk street dotted with restaurants. Residents from the surrounding towns were strolling arm-in-arm — a scene made familiar from pretty much any old-school Italian film.
Once we made it back in the house, everyone was desperate for a real meal, and taking the afternoon to heart, we made the most with what we had. So I pulled out a bottle of white wine and tossed together this Watermelon, Tomato, and Feta Farro Salad. It's a reminder that my cooking changes with wherever I find myself, in this case, the beautiful humility of a small Italian town. This is by no means classic Italian but it's what Italian cuisine is all about — fresh ingredients and little fuss. So, even if our day could be written up as a disaster at least it ended on a delicious note.
about 13 ounces
about 2 pounds
about 1 ½ pounds
about 3 ounces
about 1 ½ cups
Place farro in a fine mesh sieve and rinse briefly under running water. Bring a medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat, stir in farro, reduce heat to medium and simmer until farro is al dente (soft yet retains structure), about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
While the grains are cooling, make the rest of the salad. Combine tomatoes, watermelon, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper, stir then set aside until flavor is intensified, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Combine remaining olive oil and vinegar in a small jar, close, and shake until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then mix with the cooled farro.
When tomato-watermelon mixture is ready, drain off any juices then stir the mixture into the farro, add the arugula and feta and stir through. Serve immediately.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp