Jump to content

Farro: King of The Grains

Anna Blume

Recommended Posts

Recently, I mentioned the fact that Whole Foods now carries one-pound packages of organic emmer wheat that Montebello imports from Italy. It is just a little more than half the price of the elegant cloth sacks over at Dean & DeLuca or I Litteri, all of which are superior to the ghastly, expensive little boxes Trader Joe's sells as spelt since its product is mixed with dehydrated vegetable bits and salty bouillon powder. Balducci might be another place to find the grain.

In the summer, farro is great mixed in salads with tomato, mozzarella, basil and a fruity olive oil. At this time of year, toss it instead with lightly roasted radicchio leaves, toasted walnuts, slivers of pear and shaved Parmesan. Make farrotto instead of risotto, or my favorite, soup. There must be an earnest soul out there who's stirred up a farro pudding to serve with prune compote and flaxseed cookies.

As sold in the United States, farro is in danger of becoming trite. Let's hope not. Unlike the hard red wheat berries found in bulk in natural foods stores, it cooks rapidly without requiring pre-soaking. For this reason alone, I find barley to be a far better substitute for farro in a pinch, although farro is more neutral in flavor and has a firmer texture.

Soaking the grain overnight is advisable for one reason alone: if you plan to have leftovers. The grain is a sponge. I suspect recipes don't advise you to Russ your farro—that is, cook it straight from the bag as you might dried beans—because a long soak diminishes the capacity of farro to suck up all the liquid you add to your pot. An easy way around this is to cook and store the grains separately, portioning out the amount you'll serve right away.

Here's a link to a traditional Tuscan recipe w chickpeas and borlotti, a soup similar to one in Marcella Hazan's first cookbook, though back in the day, she called for rice instead of farro.

It's perfectly good vegan style, that is, without a meat broth. In fact, I improvised a lot this week while consulting Anna Del Conte's instructions to sauté red chili flakes w garlic and rosemary as the sofritto. There was fava bean purée in the freezer and neither white nor cranberry beans, so I dumped that into the food processor with half of my chickpeas and mixed together broths made with mushrooms and celeriac, respectively. Instead of a little dab of tomato paste that some recipes require, I used up an opened can of plum tomatoes. Stir in a little spinach at the end if you're too lazy to make a salad, and then christen each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. No need for cheese, really.

Other ideas?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I made the recipe I describe here for the Spring 2007 picnic.

I like the Roasted Beet Farrotto recipe from The Babbo Cookbook. I was hoping to make that again in a few days. It doesn't look like it's up online anywhere, but I didn't look too rigorously. I also recall there being something strange in the directions that I concluded was an error. It's not too complicated a recipe. I could probably summarize it pretty easily if I pull out the book.

There are a couple of other recipes I've made, but I don't seem to have kept terribly good track of them because I can't figure out what they were :(. (I was on a farro kick late last year/early this year.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I bought farro from The Italian Store recently. I've made farrotto with broccoli-absolutely delicious. The farro was less finicky than rice with regards to staying al dente and not getting starchy. It was still al dente after reheating in the microwave later. I also make a cold salad, a la pasta salad, except with farro. I cooked the farro like you would cook pasta (after about a 20 min. soak), cooled and mixed it with lots of chopped veggies and feta. I dressed it with evoo and red wine vinegar, salt an pepper.

I highly recommend the farro salad-the farro did not absorb the dressing and become rubbery as pasta often does. I imagine it would travel to picnics better than pasta, plus it's packed with protein. In fact, it was fresh and toothsome days later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's been a while since I've shopped in Cleveland Park, but the inventory at Vace in Bethesda seems to have gone more "Big Night" than "...take the cannoli". Think they've got the lowest price on farro: $8 for 500 gr (or a lb.? I forget) vs. $10 or more elsewhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

try: anson mills

I made a reservation at the Charleston Grill for my wife's BIG birthday this past fall. A few days later I received an email from the chef asking if there was anything they could do to make it special - we had only been their once before so that communication was pretty amazing! I mentioned she really wants to try farro... The night of, one of our course included a lamb short rib with a side of farro and fava beans risotto [just needed a nice Chianti :) ]. Farro does not get as creamy as Arborio but it was very enjoyable. The chef told us they source Anson Mills...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...