Food for Fall: Make Lemonade's Spaghetti Squash and Farro Salad


Los Angeles feels like ground zero for health fast-casual restaurant concepts. There are many--M Café, Tender Greens and Veggie Grill, to name a few--but one that is multiplying at a pretty fast clip is Lemonade.

After opening and selling The Farm of Beverly Hills and running a successful catering business, chef Alan Jackson opened the first two Lemonades in the same week, at 5th and Flower downtown, and on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, in 2007. Now there are seven locations--Pasadena is the most recent opening--with more planned for next year at LAX, Manhattan Beach and the San Fernando Valley.

"I just felt like there was something missing in the marketplace," says Jackson. "A healthy, flavorful alternative to fast food. A place where diners can choose and alter their own meal."

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And it really is a choose-your-own-adventure for lunch. At all of the locations, there are at least 20 different prepared salads, plus eight pot roasts--everything from lemongrass chicken to barbecued brisket--soups, and of course lemonade, six different flavors daily (blood orange is my new favorite). And don't forget the cookies, cupcakes and brownies; it's almost impossible to do so.

The salads, of course, are some of the most popular items, and the menu changes frequently based on seasonality and whims of the cooks. Jackson says they have more than 125 recipes so far, and many will be featured in the forthcoming Lemonade cookbook, which he's working on with local writer Joann Cianciulli. "Every day someone asks me for a recipe," he says. "Now they'll be able to have them all in one place."

But you can get one now. By far one the most popular fall salads is the spaghetti squash and farro with pomegranate vinaigrette. "I love it for its simplicity," says Jackson. "It's just slightly sweet, with a good salty balance. People flip out when we take it off the menu."

Now they don't have to--here's the recipe:

Farro, Spaghetti Squash, Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Recipe adapted from Alan Jackson, Lemonade
Makes 8 cups

1 spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup farro
1 large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup Pomegranate Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2 ounces feta, crumbled (1/4 cup)

To prepare the squash: Preheat the oven to 375°. Drizzle the flesh of the squash with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them, cut sides down, on a baking pan and roast until fork-tender, about 1 hour. Scrape squash with a fork to remove flesh in long strands. Put in a large mixing bowl.

To prepare the farro, bring a 2-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer until the farro is tender and the grains have split open, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Add the farro to the bowl of spaghetti squash. Add the parsley and dried cranberries. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Crumble the feta on top before serving.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
1/2 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the pomegranate juice into a small pot and place over medium-low heat. Add the honey and cook until the juice has reduced to 1/4 cup and is thick and syrupy, roughly 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the cooled pomegranate syrup, shallot, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and oil; season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk or shake to blend and dissolve the salt; reserve at room temperature until needed. Keep any leftover vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Note: For a hot side dish alternative, omit the vinaigrette and replace with a pat of butter.

Photo: Dommy Gonzalez/Squid Ink

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