Singing the Praises of Farro

Friday, March 07, 2008

Posted by Ann

My sixteen year old daughter Sophie decided to stop eating meat about two years ago. This decision was not because she doesn’t like meat—she still thinks fondly of chorizo and beef stew—her decision was a moral one and she has been true to it. While my partner, Jack, and I are unrepentant omnivores, we respect her choice and really enjoy coming up with meals that will satisfy all of us.

She does still eat dairy and fish, so the obvious solution is fish or baked Macaroni and Cheese. But you can’t serve those dishes over and over—just as you can’t rely on stir-fry with tofu (which seems to be what everyone makes for a non meat eater and which she is heartily tired of!), so I like to find ideas that will feed her body and her mind—meals that are new and exciting, as well as dishes, like Vegetarian Shepherds Pie, that evoke her memories of favorites from her meat-eating days. Memory plays such an important part in our enjoyment of food, but making new food memories is important too.

A new food to us, farro is the oldest cultivated grain in the world and the ancestor of all modern wheat. Evidence of cultivation has been found in Damascus as long ago as 7700 BC and more recently was the standard ration for the Roman Legion. The great news is that farro retains nearly all of its nutritional value in the kernel, so that even after processing it contains high levels of proteins and carbohydrates. It’s a great source of dietary fiber, thiamin, niacin, iron and potassium, and it’s also easy to digest. It does contain gluten, but is tolerated by many wheat sensitive people. Nutty and chewy, faro is almost impossible to overcook and lends itself to all sorts of preparations from the Roman salad of farro tossed with tomatoes, olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar to pilafs, risottos or stews. We like it with escarole, and Sophie enjoyed it so much she agreed to paint an illustration for this recipe (below).

Head of Escarole, by Sophie Bearman

Farro with Escarole
Adapted from a favorite pasta recipe
Serves 4 - 6

2 cups of farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 large heads escarole, washed and drained, roughly chopped
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cover the farro with water and let it soak for 30 minutes. Drain it and put it into a large pot with 2 quarts of water and some salt. Simmer for about 30 minutes. The faro will not absorb all of the water, so fear not.

Roughly chop the heads of escarole and then clean the leaves by soaking them in a sink filled with water. Spin them dry in batches. You’ll have a huge amount of escarole and wonder how in the world this will all come together, but it will.

In a large (4 quart) stove-top pan or stockpot, heat the olive oil and cook the sliced garlic until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the garlic chips from the pan to drain and reserve. Leave the pan with the oil ready to use again.

About ten minutes before the farro is ready heat up the oil in the garlic pan, and add the crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Add the roughly chopped escarole, tossing to wilt it in the flavored oil and wilting it into the pan in stages. Once all the escarole has fit into the pan, add the vegetable stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.

Drain the hot farro well and add it to the escarole pan. Add the lemon zest and toss to distribute. Turn the heat off and add the butter and cheese, toss to melt. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the garlic chips.

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This Post was written by Ann from Redacted Recipes


Nice painting by Sophie :) (she's a fast worker, isn't she?) I've seen neither farro nor escarole in my life. I've tasted endive (closest relative?) maybe once or twice and I loved it, so I know I'll just love this dish. I have no idea where the restaurant sourced their farro and I've not been able to find either ingredient... Sigh.. I have so much to learn.

Manggy said...
March 7, 2008 at 5:44:00 PM GMT+1  

I grew up on escarole, and it remains one of my favorite vegetables. I love this rustic Italian dish, Ann. And please tell Sophie the watercolor is simply lovely.

March 7, 2008 at 5:58:00 PM GMT+1  

Mind sharing where you can purchase farro? Thanks.

Anonymous said...
March 7, 2008 at 6:44:00 PM GMT+1  

Welcome to the DT team, Ann! Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful posts.

March 7, 2008 at 6:56:00 PM GMT+1  

Welcome to the team, Ann!
I have the same eating habits as Sophie - looking forward to a recipe exchange with you via this blog!
I think I have eaten Farro (or a similar grain) before. I should find some of it here, it's such a nice alternative to rice or pasta!


March 7, 2008 at 7:01:00 PM GMT+1  

Manggy, one of these days you'll come to New York and we'll cook together for days... :-)

Susan, thank you! I'll pass your kind words on to Sophie.

anonymous, I buy farro at Wholefoods. You may find it at an Italian specialty shop, as well. Good luck!

lydia, thank you!

Anonymous said...
March 7, 2008 at 7:51:00 PM GMT+1  

Thanks, jokergirl! I'm really glad to be here!

Anonymous said...
March 7, 2008 at 7:53:00 PM GMT+1  

Escarole is a lovely and aromatic vegetable. I also love the use of Farro. I bought kamut this week and wanted to experiment with that. Ann, do you think I could substitute kamut for the farro here?

Welcome the team and look forward to your articles and Sophie's paintings.

Meeta K. Wolff said...
March 7, 2008 at 9:35:00 PM GMT+1  

Sophie is a very talented painter! I enjoyed your post and look forward to future ones.
I have been eating meatless meals for 14 years or more, and I think it will take a whole lifetime to discover all the wonderful meatless food out there :) Thank you for introducing me to farro and escarole.

Nupur said...
March 7, 2008 at 10:14:00 PM GMT+1  

meeta, I'd think kamut would work-- though I am not familiar with how it tastes! Thanks for the welcome, I'm glad to be here!

nupur, good food is delicious and there is a lot of good food out there in the non-meat realm. Thanks for the kind words... I, of course, think Sophie is a gem. :-)

Anonymous said...
March 7, 2008 at 11:14:00 PM GMT+1  

I first had farro while in Italy and looking for a whole grain. Brought mine back from there. It is the grain of ancient Rome or so we were told!

This recipe looks absolutely great, and for for my diet (vegan macrobiotic) I could easily substitute olive oil for butter and leave off the cheese.

When I came to Sophie's art work I gasped is SO wonderful!! When you start painting vegetables it's a sure sign of a vegetabler lover.

Meg Wolff said...
March 7, 2008 at 11:23:00 PM GMT+1  

Ann, Welcome to DT. Thanks for the info on farro. It will be on my next shopping list. My compliments to Sophie. The painting is adorable.

Suganya said...
March 8, 2008 at 12:18:00 AM GMT+1  

This site is very new to me-i've never heard of farro, must research it!

Gorgeous painting, she's very talented.

Pixie said...
March 8, 2008 at 7:56:00 AM GMT+1  

Meeta, according to wiki Farro is called "Emmer" in German and seems to be an old sort of wheat and kamut:
I'm sure Kamut or Ebly would work fine! (and I really really have to get my hands on some now...)


March 8, 2008 at 9:55:00 PM GMT+1  

Congratulations on her new gig!!! I recently tried a recipe from your blog for za'atar..fab--u--lous :D

March 9, 2008 at 4:19:00 PM GMT+1  

Meg, I've actually made it without butter and cheese for vegan friends and it works perfectly!

suganya, thanks for the welcome and I know my daughter will appreciate your kind words. :-)

pixie, I hope you do try farro... and thanks!

bellini valli, so glad you liked the za'tar. it's a real favorite of ours.

Anonymous said...
March 9, 2008 at 4:27:00 PM GMT+1  

Wow! that is some choice at such an early age. I have not made or eaten Farro. Sounds interesting to say the least. I like trying new things so thanks for sharing.

Sharona May

Sharona May said...
March 11, 2008 at 9:43:00 PM GMT+1  

Farro can actually be any of the hulled wheat varieties, spelt, emmer, or einkorn, though emmer is the most common from Italy. The gluten content and your tolerance if you have a sensitivity may vary from variety to variety. Regular wheat (often called wheat berries, when in the same whole form as farro) can also be prepared the same way, though there may be slight taste and texture differences.

This may make more a difference with some varieties than others, but often a soak overnight before cooking (and cooking very gently) may bring out the best flavor and texture.

Anonymous said...
February 14, 2009 at 11:18:00 PM GMT+1  

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