Ok so yes, a lot of caveats to this lemon zucchini farro bowl – yes, we are cooking down the whole lemon (it’s delicious), and yes, we are using zucchini and summer squash (but aren’t they one in the same?) and YES – I call this a vegetable bowl when zucchini is technically a fruit. SUE ME. BUT ALSO, PLEASE DON’T.
This is part 2 of my Summer Vegetable Series (you can find part 1 here), and I’m more than excited to pretend zucchini are a vegetable…just for right now.
What you do get with this recipe needs no caveats – it’s an easy, wholesome, full meal that is built with great flavor and super-simple ingredients. I know I always say my recipes are simple (they are!) but this one is one of my go-to dinners because of how quick and easy it is. Your grains will cook the same time as your vegetables, so everything will finish around the same time. Lemons add a burst of brightness, while salt and chili flakes temper them out. Zucchini are the main vegetable, cooking down into their perfectly comforting texture and absorbing all the good flavor in the dish. Mint and basil are nearly crucial to add some freshness, and then you’re left with a really filling, really easy dinner. And if you’re a parmesan cheese head (which I am), feel free to add some to this. You can add at the end as a topping, or when you add the grains to really amp up the melt-factor.
Table of contents
First, let’s talk a bit about zucchini and summer squash
Ahhh, the ever populous summer vegetables (ok!! FRUITS). Zucchini and summer squash get a bad rap because, frankly, I don’t think we cook them well. They hold a lot of moisture, so people often see them as cookable water, but I see them as the opposite. They are primed to be flavor vehicles. And they have such a mild flavor and melty texture that makes them the perfect pairing for an ingredient as divisive and flavorful as a whole lemon….which, yes…we can discuss in the next section.
Why do people use a whole lemon in cooking?
This lemon zucchini farro bowl uses a whole lemon. And you heard that right. It’s for good reason, too, a whole lemon is kind of like an onion. It has a really sharp and strong taste when it’s raw, but when you cook it down, it turns into something soft, mellow, and an absolute flavor bomb. People eat lemon rinds raw all the time (I’m not going to get into it….there are many opinions!) but I find it’s a much easier sell to convince people to eat lemons cooked. And in this lemon zucchini farro bowl, you might not even notice them! They blend in quite well with the summer squash, delivering only on flavor.
You’ll find other people use whole lemons for the similar reasons – it is less waste, the rind is a great flavor enhancement as well as flavor vehicle, you get all the flavor from both the lemon juice and the lemon zest, and you get to experience the texture of a caramelized, cooked-down lemon, which is nothing to snuff at!
What ingredients will I need for this lemon zucchini bowl?
Following the two main ingredients, the rest of the things you need for this bowl are really quite simple, but they all deliver a hit of flavor. You’ll need:
- Farro – or any grain you like, I’ll leave some suggestions below!
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 large lemon
- Zucchini or summer squash – I encourage you to mix-and-match these!
- Garlic cloves – imperative to this recipe, as garlic is to almost everything
- Extra-virgin olive oil – choose a good brand if you can, this recipe uses quite a lot of it and relies on it for deep, rich flavor.
- Red pepper flakes – but don’t worry, even with the red pepper this recipe is far from spicy!
- Chickpeas – or any bean. It can also be any other type of protein that you’re making for dinner, this recipe isn’t choosy.
- Parmesan – optional, for topping
- Freshly ground black pepper
What other grains can I use in this lemon zucchini grain bowl?
While I recommend farro for this recipe, this recipe was originally designed to be pasta. But could I in good conscious recommend pasta as a good sub for farro? Probably not, HOWEVER, here are a few of my favorite substitutes for the carby element of this dish:
- Orzo – so yes, you can use pasta!
- Brown rice
- Wild Rice
- Couscous – another pasta of sorts!
Or really anything your heart desires. If it’s a bite-sized grain, it will probably work here!
Do I have to use the whole lemon in this recipe?
For those of you who are lemon-averse, I do suggest you try it just once to see if this might change your mind! But if you are absolutely, 100% afraid of the rind, there are some work arounds.
First, you’ll want to zest and juice two lemons. We need two so that you still get that big lemon kick, but without the lemon pieces. Add the zest when you add the oil, then add half the juice halfway through cooking the zucchini. Save the rest of the juice for when after the farro is added. Taste the bowl, and if you think it could use more lemon flavor, add in the juice as needed.
It won’t be exactly the same, but for non-lemon-heads, it’ll be pretty close!
This bowl stores supremely well. Just add it to an airtight container and it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. It’s great for meal-prep!
Absolutely, any bean will work. You can also sub in your favorite protein like cubed salmon or fried tofu!
Of course, just leave out the parmesan and this lemon zucchini bowl is 100% plant-based!
Looking for similar recipes?
Here are some of my favorite grain bowls at the moment!
And that’s it for this lemon zucchini farro bowl!
And of course feel free to leave any questions, comments or reviews! This is the best place to reach me, and I’d love to hear from you.
Lemon Zucchini Farro Bowl
- 1 large pot
- 1 mesh sieve
- 1 sauté pan
- 1 Rubber Spatula
- 1 rasp-style grater optional, for cheese grating
- 1 cup farro
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 large lemon
- 3 small zucchini or summer squash or 2 large ones
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 ounces parmesan optional, for topping
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the farro under cool water. Bring a large pot of water to boil and generously salt it. Add the farro, reduce to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or accourding to package instructions.
- Halve the lemon lengthwise and slice it into half-moon pieces, removing seeds as you go.
- Slice the squash into medallions, as this as possible.
- Slice the garlic cloves.
- Add the oil to a sauté pan over medium heat and let it heat up for 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the lemon and cook, stirring often, for about a minute. Add in the squash and give everything a big stir to coat in the oil. Season with a few large pinches of salt and stir again.
- Cook the lemon and the squash, stirring occasionally, for 15-17 minutes. It's long, I know, but that's what softenes the lemon, mellows the rind, and gets everything to a mild and delicious flavor. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and salt to taste halfway through this cooking time.
- Tear the herbs into the zucchini during the last minute of cooking. Mix to combine.
- Remoe the pan from the heat. Drain the cooked farro and add it to the pan. Add in the chickpeas and give everything a few big mixes. The farro should be nice and glossy.
- Portion the farro into four bowls, top each with a pile of freshly grated pamresan and a few cracks of black pepper. Serve warm.