Saturday, March 23, 2013


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Farro, ever heard of it, ever cooked it? Well if not, carpe diem, baby! Farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. Because farro contains a starch similar to that found in Arborio rice, it behaves much like risotto, releasing a creamy, binding liquid when cooked. But unlike risotto, farro doesn't become gummy; instead, it retains its tender, distinct bite, even if it sits awhile after cooking. Farro can be put into soup and when the grains combine with beans, chickpeas, greens and seafood, great things happen. Farro is rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E. It grows best in barren, high-altitude terrain and is almost always grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Because it is so easily digested and so low in gluten, farro can often be eaten by people who are normally gluten-intolerant. Farro flour, made from ground grain, can be used for making both bread and pasta.

Here are some recipes from The New York Times:

Farro With Tomatoes And Pecorino

1 1/2 cups whole-grain farro
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 bouquet garni (1 sprig rosemary, 1 sprig sage, and 1 garlic clove, tied together in cheesecloth)
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
10 basil leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes, crushed
1 to 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
6 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional shavings of Pecorino cheese

Rinse the farro in a fine sieve and rinse under cool running water. Transfer to a large, heavy saucepan and cover with 1 1/2 inches of water. Add the salt and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain, and spread the farro in a shallow pan to cool off. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, mix well and let rest.Place a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, add 4 tablespoons of oil and the garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 5 basil leaves and hot red pepper to taste. Add the farro, mix very well and add 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth. Cook over medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Add more broth when the farro has absorbed the previous liquid. Keep adding broth until the farro is tender but still has a bit of bite, about 17 minutes. Stir in the grated Pecorino, the remaining basil leaves and the rest of the oil. Stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the farrotto in soup bowls, topped with shaved Pecorino, if desired. Yield: 6 servings

You can also take it to the sweet side:

Farro and Maple Syrup Pudding

1 1/2 cups whole-grain farro
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Put the farro in a fine sieve and rinse under cool running water. Transfer to a bowl, cover with two inches of water, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Drain farro and set aside. In a bowl, mix together the milk, cream, melted butter, maple syrup, salt and eggs. Add the drained farro, mixing well. Pour mixture into a greased 1 1/2-to-2-quart shallow casserole dish and bake on the middle level for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture and sprinkle the top with the brown sugar. Raise the oven heat to 300 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, until set. The farro pudding can be served hot, warm or cold. It can also be served plain or with whipped cream, nut biscotti, fresh fruit or a combination.