When I look back over my posts, I see a trend. I think that it is fair to say that I love beans. I am very comfortable making beans in every way, shape and form. But it seems like grains create a little more problem for me. When it comes to grains, I am most comfortable with that old favorite – rice.
Cooking grains seems a little more awkward. Figuring out what to do with grains takes a little more effort. Husband isn’t a big fan of the more adventurous grains. I simply don’t have as much experience with grains. But I know that whole grains are a valuable part of a healthy diet. I know that there are a wide variety of grains available. It’s time that I take the bull by the horns (or the grains by the husk) and up my comfort level with them.
Farro seems like a good starting place. I have cooked it before. We like it pretty well. Let’s give it another whirl. I made farro four ways. I did it in four consecutive days, but that isn’t completely necessary!
I started with a bag of Italian Pearled Farro packaged by Nature’s Earthly Grains.
Pearled farro has had part of the outer husk so that it cooks more quickly. It was the only farro I could find in my store, so that’s what I got. A quarter cup of farro has 170 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and a single gram of fat. So here is what I came up with:
Day One – Roasted Salsa Farro Salad. I think that I invented this recipe But it’s possible that I have seen something like it in a cookbook. I love salsa. Daughter and I like Mexican food, but we always say that it is just a vehicle to get salsa into your mouth. That’s how much we love salsa. So I took all the components of my favorite roasted salsa and made a salad out of it.
I had already cooked a batch of farro according to the package directions, and had that at the ready.
I started with one really big jalapeno, some green onions and some cherry tomatoes. I coated the jalapeno and the onions with some olive oil. I put the cherry tomatoes in a small dish that can withstand very high temperatures and doused them with some olive oil. Then I got my gas grill screaming hot. I put the vegetables on the grill and got them nicely charred. The green onions cooked really fast. The jalapeno was done next. And the tomatoes took a few minutes to pop and sizzle. They never really got the char that I hoped for.
After letting everything cool a bit, I skinned and chopped the jalapeno. I chopped the onions (discarding some of the ends that got a little burned!). To a cup of cooked farro, I added the chopped vegetables, all of the roasted cherry tomatoes, some chopped cilantro, a good squeeze of lime and a bit of olive oil. At the last minute I decided to throw in a handful of corn, for color and sweetness.
This was delicious. The grilled/roasted vegetables added so much flavor. The sweetness of the corn was a great addition. I didn’t expect husband to go for this but he actually went back for thirds. I served this as a warm side-dish salad with some cooked black beans. Husband had a piece of grilled chicken as well. And of course, I served some salsa along with it!
Day Two – Sweet, Spicy Breakfast Farro with Apples and Almonds. I got this recipe from the Nature’s Earthly Choice website. And then of course, I made a few changes to it!
To make a single serving of breakfast farro, I used a quarter cup uncooked farro, half an apple, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, a pinch of cardamom, a pinch of cayenne, lemon juice and grated ginger.
So I cut the apple into small dice and sauteed that in a saucepan for a few minutes with a bit of olive oil. Then I added the all the other ingredients along with 3/4 cup of water.
I let that cook partially covered for about 20 minutes. I wanted the farro to be on the soft side. When it was done, I topped it with the almonds and raisins. Next time I might just cook the raisins in with the other ingredients so that they plump better. I also used a bit of agave syrup to sweeten it. It didn’t need much though.
This was very flavorful. The cayenne gave it a little bit of a bite. The other flavors made me think of chai. My breakfast farro was more apple than farro. But the cooked apple tasted delicious. You could easily increase the recipe to serve more people or retain leftovers in the refrigerator and microwave it for breakfast later in the week.
Unlike oatmeal, farro is not porridge like. The grains are very separate. That is a textural difference that I will have to get used to. Nonetheless, this was very tasty. I would make this again.
Day Three – Farro Stuffed Peppers. Husband doesn’t eat stuffed peppers. They don’t agree with him. But I love them, so several times each year, I make a batch for myself.
I started with two lovely, fresh, bell peppers. I find the red, yellow and orange peppers, to be a bit milder than the green peppers, but I love them all.
I used some of my pre-cooked farro to make a stuffing. In a skillet, I sauteed, onions and garlic with olive oil, then added a cup of farro, raisins and almonds. Before I stuffed the peppers, I decided that it would be a good idea to add a little cheese to the stuffing mixture. I thought that might help it hold together. I grated about a 1/2 cup of mozzarella and cheddar. I added some of that to the stuffing mix and reserved some to put on top at the end.
I cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Some people just cut the top off the pepper and stuff it that way. But I like a high ratio of stuffing to pepper and I find that is best accomplished with the lengthwise cut. I put the stuffed peppers into a baking dish. I poured marinara all around the sides of the peppers. I used about 2 cups of marinara, but I like things to be saucy. I used some homemade marinara, but a favorite store bought would be just as good.
I covered the peppers with foil and cooked them in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 55 minutes. I like my peppers to get well cooked. At the end of that time, I removed the foil. I felt like the marinara was getting a little too dry and thick, so I added about a half cup of water to keep everything moist. I also topped the peppers with the remaining cheese. I put that back in the oven for about 15 minutes
I would show you a picture of the cooked peppers, but there is just no way to get an appealing picture of stuffed peppers in the baking dish. But I do have a picture of one of the peppers ready to eat. Even still, it tasted better that it looked. The farro was a great stuffing. It was mild and delicious and it worked well in this dish.
Day Four – Luccan Farro Soup. Apparently Lucca is a town in Tuscany. And this farro soup is a specialty of the that town. I had one recipe by Maria Batali and another by Mark Bittman. They were very similar. But in the end I followed Bittman’s recipe more closely. Mario Batali’s recipe called for peas. I had a bad 2nd grade experience with peas, and lo these many years later, I can barely face a green pea!
This is a bean and grain soup, calling for farro and white beans. I used Navy Beans.
The soup is very simple to make. It starts with onions, celery and carrots. To my surprise, I didn’t have an onion. So I used the 3 green onions that I had on hand.
I sauteed the vegetables in a very large Dutch oven along with some olive oil.
When the vegetables were soft, I added two cloves of chopped garlic and sauteed that briefly. Then I added 1 cup of navy beans that had been soaked for several hours along with 6 cups of water. Bittman calls for chicken broth but water worked fine for me. At this point I was supposed to add the farro as well. But I decided not to, because I had pearled farro. The pearled farro just didn’t need as much cooking time as the beans.
When the beans were tender, I added a cup of uncooked farro, salt, pepper, and one 14 oz can of whole tomatoes that had been well chopped, along with their juice. I let this cook for about 30 minutes. I took it off the heat and let it sit covered for another half hour. At the end of that time the both the beans and the farro were deliciously tender.
I served this soup with some homemade whole wheat bread. We put a wedge of Parmesan cheese on the table to grate liberally on our soup.
This is a very large batch of soup. Husband and I both enjoyed it. Enough to eat it as leftovers the next day. Husband described it as delicious and hearty. It would make a great cold weather soup.
Next time I make this soup, I think I will add some kind of green towards the end of cooking. I think that some spinach or chard would have been a nice addition.
Farro – what’s the verdict? Farro is good. It has a nice large grain. It can be a little chewy but the texture is not off-putting. The flavor is mild. I enjoyed every sinlge dish that I made with this grain. I am still working on my comfort level with grains, but my four days of farro were a great start.