5.12.2009

Farro, Two Ways

Once upon a time there was a grain called emmer wheat. It was the original grain from which all other grains derive. It was the primary wheat grown in Asia, Africa and Europe through the first 5000 years of recorded agriculture, feeding the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years. It was the standard ration of the Roman Legions and, ground up, it was also the primary ingredient in polenta which was eaten for centuries by the Roman poor.

However, farro (the Italian name for emmer wheat) was a low-yield crop and by the beginning of the 20th century, higher-yielding wheat strains had replaced farro almost everywhere, except in parts of Europe and Ethiopia. My tale might have ended here except- isn’t this a familiar refrain?- some savvy French farmers began to supply it to elegant restaurants and those chefs began to use the grain in soups and other hearty dishes. Their success sparked renewed interest in farro and now the grain is enjoying a resurgence in popularity especially among trendy health-conscious cooks.

Farro is a barley shaped grain and has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. You can usually find it at Whole Foods or other health food suppliers and, surprisingly, at Amazon. I buy mine at Blue Bird Grain Farms.


If you've never tried farro before (or haven't even heard of it), this familiar salad is an excellent way to be introduced. Understandably, farro is very popular in Italy which certainly explains the origins of this particular recipe. You might be thinking: boiled grains? But the olive oil and creamy mozzarella make it rich and the tomatoes provide a fresh and juicy contrast. Besides, the very texture of farro lends itself well to salads; it travels well to picnics and it can be mixed with many ingredients to create a lot of flavor options. In this recipe, I simply combined cooked (and slightly warm so the mozzarella softened) farro with sweet cherry tomatoes, chunks of fresh mozzarella, chopped fresh basil and dressed it lightly with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It is a perfect lunch: delicious, hearty and healthy.

Caprese Farro Salad
(Adapted from Blue Bird Grain Farm's recipe)

Ingredients:
1 cup farro
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped shallot
2 medium tomatoes (or halve several cherry type tomatoes)
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
Place the farro, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes. (Do not overcook, you want the farro to be tender, but chewy.) Drain excess water. This should make 2 cups cooked farro.

Place the warm cooked farro in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil and balsamic, stir to mix well. Add chopped shallot, basil, salt and pepper and stir to combine all ingredients. Top with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Flavors are best when served warm or at room temperature



Simply because I became intrigued with farro and continued to search, I found this next scrumptious recipe in a cookbook called Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass. Served with a piece of grilled salmon it was a fabulous dinner. Fish seems to go beautifully with this hearty farro/mushroom dish, but I can see steak here as well.


Surprise your friends and family; they will be really impressed at this creative alternative for rice or potatoes- I can't begin to tell you how delicious it is- good for you too.

Farro with Mushrooms
(Adapted from Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass)

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup diced shallots
24 ounces Crimini mushrooms (Baby Bella), stems cut in half lengthwise and caps sliced in 1/2 inch slices
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup basalmic vinegar mixed with 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 cups cooked farro (see above salad recipe for directions)

Method:
In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute until they begin to soften, remove the garlic and then add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until mushrooms have released their liquid and are well browned.


Stir in the balsamic vinegar mixture and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated. Add cooked farro and heat for about 2-3 minutes, stirring gently. Add the fresh thyme, correct the seasoning and serve warm.
Serves 4-6.

1 comment:

  1. Your farro with mushrooms looks divine!!

    I adore farro, it is so healthy & tasty too!

    ReplyDelete

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