Thursday, June 7, 2012

Farro: Rome's ancient grain

Farro is an ancient Roman grain, often confused with emmer (wheat) or spelt.  Grown for years in Lazio and Umbria, it went out of favor until some hot shot chef decided to include it on his menus, and the rest is history.  Small farmers in Umbria began growing farro again, and it has now made its way across the pond and we are seeing it in salads, sautes, desserts (think rice pudding) and even 'quasi' risottos.  Not only is it the "it" grain, it is also really good for you, whether you add it to soups, or vegetable dishes or use it in place of riso for risotto, its antioxidants, and minerals are all building blocks and should be part of your diet.
You can buy farro in specialty markets, I bought mine at Mona Lisa here in San Diego, an Italian grocer, or you can order it online from here.

Simple to cook, I will cook 2 cups of farro in boiling salted water for 12 minutes.  It has a nice resistance at that point, and can be added to other dishes to become a bit softer.   Any leftover cooked farro freezes, and you can have it on hand to make any number of other dishes, or dress with good olive oil and toss in some fresh herbs for a side dish.

Farro with Kale
Serves 6
This recipe is inspired by one from Lynn Rosetto Kasper's The Splendid Table website  
I've tweaked it a bit to fit my family's preferences, but you can add and subtract here as you wish.  I like to serve this at room temperature.  

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One 1/2-inch slice pancetta, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (about 1 small) onion finely chopped
One bunch kale, tough stems discarded and finely chopped into ribbons
1/4 cup white wine
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups cooked farro
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

In a large skillet, heat the oil and saute the pancetta, until it is crispy.
 Add the garlic and onion, and saute until the onion begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the kale and wine, cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the kale is wilted, add the farro, raisins, and pine nuts, tossing to combine and heat through.

Taste for seasoning adding salt or pepper if needed. Serve the farro as a bed for grilled anything, or as a side dish at room temperature.
Cook's Notes: 
  •  If you would like to use another green, collards, Swiss chard, or spinach will all work here. 
  • Any leftovers are great tossed with a bit of vinaigrette to serve alongside some grilled veggies for dinner.
  • If you would like to have a vegetarian farro, omit the pancetta, and use a bit more olive oil for sauteing.   

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