Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Newest Obsession - Farro

I love my whole grains, especially in the winter time.  They're rich, nutty and hearty and leave you with this, fabulous satisfied feeling when you incorporate them into a great meal.  Recently, I've learned about the wonder of farro - a dense, Italian grain that has a sesame-like nuttiness and pairs amazingly with bright, citrus flavors.

Some quick background info: Farro comes from a certain variety of wheat plant and has regional affiliations throughout Italy.  It can be used almost interchangeably with barley in many recipes because they share a lot of basic characteristics.  It also comes in a variety of sizes and holds up a lot of it's bite when you cook it making it ideal for soups and stews.  Check your supermarket's bulk section - it's by far the cheapest way to buy any grain, including farro.

So now that you've learned all about farro, I want to share a recipe I've put together that can be served warm or room temperature as a salad.

Citrus Ginger Farro Salad

3 cups water
1 cup pearled farro
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 tablespoon grated fresh young ginger root
1/2 cup dried cherries (I prefer sour cherries if they're available)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup sprouted peas (I added these for protein, but they could easily be omitted if you don't like peas)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped mint (if you have grapefruit mint available, that's my favorite with this recipe)

- Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan
- Add sesame oil, salt and farro and cook on a low simmer for 20 minutes or until tender to the bite (it will still hold an al dente quality)
- Whisk together citrus juices, zest, ginger, olive oil and shallots to form the dressing
- Soak the cherries and peas in the dressing while the farro finishes cooking
- Drain the farro well and add to the dressing mixture while the farro is still warm
- Add pistachios and herbs (reserve a pinch of each herb to top with for serving) and gently fold into the salad
- Top with remaining herbs and serve (you can make it ahead of time and serve at room temperature as well)

One great thing about this salad, is you can use whatever you have in your pantry.  I've used walnuts and pecans in lieu of the pistachios and substituted raisins or cranberries for the cherries.  You can also cook the farro in a 2 cups water and 1 cup chicken stock and mix in chopped onions, carrots and celery for a pilaf-style side dish.

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