Farro: The Miracle Grain

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An ancient grain, farro has become wildly popular in recent years.

Farro originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it has been found in the tombs of Egyptian kings and was perhaps fed to Roman legions. Italians have eaten farro for centuries.

Why are Americans suddenly interested in farro?

With the continuing love affair with Italian food, farro was the natural progression after risotto and polenta. With nutty flavor and a chewy texture, farro is just plain delicious.

Farro is derived from three types of hulled wheat: spelt, emmer and einkorn. Packing a healthy punch, it is high in protein and fiber and beats out brown and white rice in terms of nutrition. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin and zinc.

Sold dry like rice, farro resembles barley in appearance after it is cooked. Less finicky to prepare than rice, farro is versatile. It is lively in salads but can also withstand heat without falling apart, so it’s great in soups and stews. It makes a spunky risotto and is a sophisticated side dish. At breakfast, it’s the new oatmeal.

Try serving sunny side up fried eggs over farro. It mixes well with runny yolks. More nutritious than pasta, farro complements tomato sauce, with or without meatballs. Once you start making farro, there’s no end to the ways you’ll enjoy it.

Basic Farro | Pareve

Yield: one cup; serves two

½ cup raw farro

Water for rinsing, plus 1 cup

Pinch of salt

In a colander, rinse the farro under cold water. Reserve.

Pour one cup of water into a medium-sized saucepan. Add the salt. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil on a high flame. Add the farro. Stir it and cover the pot. Reduce the flame to medium-low. The water should be at a low simmer.

After 15 minutes of simmering, remove the saucepan from the flame and keep it covered for five minutes. Add two tablespoons of water or more if there is hardly any water in the saucepan. Cover the saucepan and simmer on low for another five to 10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. The farro should be crunchy but not hard inside. If it is not done, add a tablespoon or two of water, cover the pot and continue simmering.

Farro for Breakfast | Pareve or Dairy

Serves two

½ cup raw farro

Water for rinsing, plus 1 cup

Pinch of salt

½ inch piece of ginger root, skinned and chopped fine

Accompaniments:

Maple syrup for drizzling

Any kind of berries

1-2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

Rinse the farro under cold water. Reserve.

Pour one cup of water into a medium-sized saucepan with the salt and ginger.

Cover the saucepan and bring water to a boil, following the Basic Farro directions.

When the farro is ready, spoon it into two cereal bowls. Drizzle the maple syrup on top. Add berries or Greek yogurt, if using. Serve immediately.

Farro Salad | Pareve

Serves six to eight

1 small zucchini, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 bunch of scallions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons red pepper, diced fine

4 tablespoons raisins

cup olive oil

cup red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon garlic powder, or more if desired

Kosher salt to taste

Follow the Basic Farro recipe. Let the cooked farro come to room temperature. The recipe can be made to this point, stored in a container and refrigerated three days in advance.

Place the farro in a large mixing bowl, along with the remaining ingredients. Stir the ingredients until well combined. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before serving and stir again.

Farro Risotto with Mushrooms | Pareve or Dairy

Serves four

10 ounces of mushrooms (white, crimini, chanterelle, shitake, or a combination is best)

3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed

4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine

Kosher salt to taste

Optional topping: grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the mushrooms under cold water and remove all dirt. Drain them well on paper towels, coarsely dice and reserve.

In a medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil on a medium flame. Add the garlic and sauté until it is sweating and fragrant, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until the mushrooms wilt, about five minutes. Drizzle in more oil if the mushrooms are dry and beginning to stick.

Into the saucepan with mushrooms, add the ingredients and follow the directions for Basic Farro. Check as the farro simmers to make sure there is enough salt. Cook until the farro is ready. Place the farro in a serving bowl and serve immediately. Generously sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using.

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