What is farro? I know, lots of people have never heard of it. Honestly, I hadn’t either until a few years ago. And that’s understandable.
Farro is wheat but tastes, to me at least, nutty and rich and is a bit chewy — in a good way. An ancient staple grain in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, especially in Ancient Rome, it largely disappeared in favor of wheat varieties that were easier and cheaper to grow.
However, I’ve noticed it’s made a comeback of sorts and I’ve seen it popping up on restaurant menus. Farro’s not too hard to find in the grocery store these days either.
Another pantry simple dish. Serve with just about any simple meat or fish and a green salad as a perfect accompaniment. Or enjoy as simple lunch — it’s good cold too.
Pronounced Fahr-ro, its Italian name, it was called Emmer Wheat in older times (and I’d guess still is depending on who and where you are). It also has less gluten than the bread and durum flours you’re more used to. It’s used, often with beans, in winter soups and often used as a substitute for the rice in a more-traditional risotto.
So, you know me, I dove into the cookbook trove both new and old looking for references to this ancient grain and found precious few on the American shelf. Alice Waters, in The Art of Simple Food, has just one recipe but does give us this: I usually cook 1½ cups of farro at a time. I serve half of it warm as a side dish and the other half the next day as a salad. She also sprinkles a bit of red wine vinegar over it as a finish. I’ve used a bit of lemon juice before with the same idea. It adds a little brightness when needed.
Semi-pearled means the bran has been removed and you can cook it more like a rice. If the farro you buy is not semi-pearled, you’ll need to put it in a dish, cover with water, and stick it in the refrigerator overnight to soften it up. (Otherwise, you’ll wonder why it’s still hard no matter how long you cook it.) Most of the farro I’ve seen in the store is semi-pearled so you’re probably okay. And if you want to soak it overnight anyway, no worries, just realize it’ll cook faster.
Be sure to read the directions on the farro you buy to get the recommended farro-to-liquid ratio and cooking time. The brand I get recommends 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of farro. Since I freeze my broth (and stock) in quart containers, or 4 cups, a bit of math and I get 1 and 1/3 cups of farro needed.
You might have noticed this particular method of cooking is a bit similar to a risotto and you’d be right! Except you don’t have to stir everything the whole time. In fact, if you wanted to stir in a tablespoon of butter and ¼ cup of grated Parmesan at the end, I wouldn’t blame you a bit. (For me, it depends on what else I’m serving.)
Easy side dish using food I normally have on-hand. Score.
Farro with Peas and Mushrooms
A delicious, easy, and healthy dish perfect with a variety of lunches and dinners. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- glug extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons shallots, finely-chopped
- 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thin and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 scant tablespoon garlic, finely-chopped
- 1 1/3 cups farro
- 1 teaspoon rosemary or thyme (optional)
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup peas
- salt and pepper to taste, at least a teaspoon of one and a half-teaspoon of the other
Rinse the farro in a strainer / sieve.
Heat oil over medium heat and saute shallots and mushrooms until they begin to soften and lose their "raw" taste, about 5 minutes, stirring lazily, enough to keep it from scorching.
Add garlic and saute another minute and continue stirring.
Add the farro and stir to coat with the oil and lightly toast the uncooked grain, just a minute or two.
Add the broth and mix everything well.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. (Similar to cooking rice.)
Let cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the grain is al dente.
About 5 minutes before it's done, stir in the peas.
Taste, adjust salt and pepper to taste. It should not be salty nor should it be bland. Add a little, stir, taste, repeat.