crispy kale and faro with toasted coconut

Sometimes it’s hard to break out of the culinary box. Faro? Your children may ask, “like the guys in Egypt with the pyramids?” Crispy roasted kale? They give you this “are you kidding?” look:

But you want to, just the same. You see a recipe with toasted coconut and kale and that faro—the ingredient that seems to be everywhere these days, the current darling of super-grains with a “nutty” quality that you can relate to—and you want to embrace it. You want to be able to join in all future faro-related conversations with a knowing nod and your own two cents about perfect cooking time to achieve al dente kernels. If this is you, then this is your recipe. It’s got a short ingredient list, (6 items) and not much fuss to the mise en place (prepping of the ingredients in fancy french culinary terms, ahem.)

I have long admired Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day and have been reading her blog 101 Cookbooks forever. She just won another James Beard Award and has certainly earned it with her elegant writing, accessible recipes, and lovely photography! This recipe is a mildly tweaked version of her Kale Salad from that beautiful book, which was a valuable resource and inspiration for me in planning my healthy spa menu for Rancho La Puerta. (Oh my God…just a few more weeks! Can. Not. Wait.) I realized, however, that as much as I love the idea of being a vegetarian, my gluten sensitivity, my inability to successfully digest legumes without clearing a room and killing small nearby plants with the resulting fumes (no matter how I cook or soak them), and my paleo-diet book-writing husband, keep me from becoming one. Plus I do love a roasted chicken. And a seven-hour braised leg of lamb. And butter-poached lobster. And soups infused with long-cooked bones. And falling-apart-caramelized-to-an-inch-of their-lives ribs. But I do love kale.

Kale is a meaty green if that makes any sense. It’s got a great bite to it if it’s not overcooked. It roasts up caramelized and crunchy for this recipe. In fact, this recipe is a crunch-fest, and if you are a crunch-aholic like me you will appreciate the golden-crisped coconut, the chewy faro and the crunchy roasted kale, all lightly dressed with sesame oil (if ever an oil felt crunchy it’s sesame), tamari, and olive oil.

Here, it’s been just barely all combined right in the pan I used to toast the kale, and I can tell you that this may be good as a cold salad, but it’s really, really, amazing warm. I wanted to just pile it into a bowl and fry a runny egg to top it off with and call it dinner, right then and there.

I added an extra step to the original recipe—toasting the coconut naked and separately from the kale—just to get a bit more of a definitive nutty, crispy flavor out of the little flakes. This dish packs so much flavor, nutrition and crunch it could easily stand alone, but if you are using it as a side dish, I’d pair it with a salt and pepper seasoned grilled or pan-seared fish, chicken breast or pork chop. Or maybe just that fried egg…

Kale and Faro  with Toasted Coconut
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

Serves 4


1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons shoyu, tamari or soy sauce
4 cups kale, stems trimmed, large ribs removed
2 cups unsweetened large-flake coconut
2 cups cooked faro* or other whole grain


  1. Cook faro according to package directions (this usually means bringing to a boil in salted water and simmering for 15 minutes or so, then draining and rinsing with cold water.) Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. placing two racks in top third of the oven.
  3. In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce/tamari/shoyu.
  4. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it does not get too dark. You want it to be a nice, golden brown. Remove from oven and hold aside.
  5. Put the kale in a large bowl and toss well with about two-thirds of the olive oil mixture. Spread the kale mixture evenly across two baking sheets. (You want the kale to be spread out in one layer, so it will roast and crunch, not steam).  Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, tossing once or twice along the way and rotating the sheets so they cook evenly. You are going for a kale that is caramelizing and turning dark along the edges…but not going so far as to be a dried chip.
  6. Remove kale from oven and transfer it to a medium bowl. Combine with coconut. Taste for salt or additional dressing and toss.
  7. Toss the faro in the remaining dressing just coat, then place it on a serving platter and top with the tossed kale. (or you may just combine the faro with the kale and then put it on a platter.) Serve warm, or at room temperature.