i’d like to introduce your pantry to a cute, little grain called farro. i know what you’re thinking. i hate set-ups too, but trust me, this one will end in an everlasting happy union. i first became intimate with farro about two years ago. we met over dinner at one market. it was all dressed up in butternut squash and had tried to disguise itself as arborio rice, appearing in a risotto. from the very first bite of chewy grainy goodness, i was ready to walk down the aisle and commit. unfortunately, it could sense my eagerness and decided to play a bit of hard-to-get. after a strong pursuit though, i found it hiding in the fancy grain section at the gourmet grocery store. it was no cheap date but sometimes you have to give some to get some. since then, farro has always had its own little place in my pantry, and i hope after this set-up, it also finds a permanent place in your pantry as well.
it’s easy to describe why i’m so in love with this grain. one, it originates from the great culinary land of italy. two, it’s actually good for you, packed full of protein and fiber. and three, there is something just so incredibly satisfying about taking a bite of farro. it’s chewy al-dente consistency makes you feel like you’re really taking a bite of something hearty and substantive. for that reason, i love making it for picnics and serving it alongside fish. it holds up well during transport on its own, and it’s firmness is a perfect compliment to the tender, flaky flesh of fish.
although farro may be a new exotic grain to you, the preparation of it is incredibly simple. below i share a farro recipe for my new favorite salad that i make almost every other week. i love having it on hand to throw into some tupperware for lunch or always having a quick, delicious side dish for whatever i’m preparing. i typically buy semi-pearled farro, which cuts the cooking time by at least half. you simply give it a few rinses (if you’ve got whole farro, i’d soak it in water overnight, just like dried beans), and boil it like pasta. bring a pot of water to boil (about 3 cups per 1 cup of farro), salt lightly and throw the farro in and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. one of the best parts about cooking farro is that it’s an incredibly forgiving grain. it won’t get all mushy on you but always remains chewy and al-dente, so if you walk away for a few extra minutes, it’ll somehow still be the perfect consistency when you come back.
so, what are you waiting for? it’s time to pencil that first date into your calendar.
farro salad with roasted red peppers and kidney beans
serves 4 for lunch or as a side
1.5 cups of semi-pearled farro (prepared with instructions above)
2 red peppers
2 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
paper grocery bag
1 cup of cooked navy beans
1/2 tbs. dijon mustard
1/2 tbs. honey
1/2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
a handful of basil leaves, torn or chopped into ribbons
salt and pepper to taste
we’re going to start by roasting our red peppers. i love the taste of fresh roasted red peppers. yes, you can buy them jarred, but they’re simple enough to make that it’s worth just the little bit of extra effort. start by using a paring knife and cut around the stem of the pepper and then pulling it out. give it a quick rinse and drizzle some olive oil inside the pepper and also coat the outside with a generous amount of olive oil. sprinkle some salt on the inside and on the outside. place the peppers on an oven safe baking tray and broil on high in either your toaster oven if you’ve got one or your normal oven. broil on high for 10 minutes or until the skin is black and charred and turn and do the same to the other side. place into a paper bag and close tightly, creating a steaming effect inside the bag that will take the skins off. remove the skins when the peppers have cooled down and then chop into bite sized slices.
combine the chopped roasted red peppers with the farro and the beans. then make the vinaigrette by combining the mustard, honey and vinegar and slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking simultaneously. garnish with some basil leaves and then salt and pepper to taste. pack up in your next picnic, serve with salmon or chicken or tupperware for a healthy, hearty lunch.