At this point many of us have embraced whole grains, become friendly with brown rice, maybe casual acquaintances with quinoa, but there are still a number of grains out there that remain a mystery.
Farro may well be one of them. I had enjoyed it in restaurants a couple of times — a lot in fact; it’s chewy and hearty and nutty and really delicious. But I hadn’t cooked it at home. Time to overcome farro-phobia.
Farro is a wheat grain, popular throughout the Mediterranean, and Italy is the capital of farro consumption; it was in fact the main grain of ancient Rome. When you really dig into the world of farro you’ll find there are actually three species of farro, but the emmer variety is the one that is most commonly available.
Make sure you buy the semi-pearled variety, which cooks much faster, and allows you to skip the overnight soaking step. Not all packaging is very clear about this, so make sure to read the cooking instructions on the farro you buy to see if this step is necessary.
Farro is great in soups, salads and as a substitution for short grained rice in risotto-like dishes. Here it’s used as the base of a vegetable-studded side dish – you can change up the vegetables however you see fit, and if a grill isn’t handy go ahead and roast them in the oven.
Note: Since I wrote this, I got way WAY over my farro-phobia, and here are just a few of the dishes I’ve been making with one of my new favorite grains:
Farro with Grilled Broccoli and Sweet Onions
- ½ head broccoli trimmed and cut into ¾ - inch thick slabs (see Note)
- 1 sweet onion such as Vidalia, thickly sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup semi-pearled farro
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the grill to medium. Toss the broccoli and onions with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill, turning as the bottom sides become browned, for about 10 minutes total, until the vegetables are browned and tender. Remove them from the grill and roughly chop them.
- Heat a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the farro and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes, until it is lightly toasted. Add the butter and the garlic and sauté for two more minutes so that the butter melts and the grains are well coated, and you can smell the garlic. Add the broth, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth has been absorbed and the faro is cooked through, but still has a nice chewy consistency, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped grilled vegetables and serve warm.
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