Farro Four Ways

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.

Ingredients for Roasted Salsa Farro Salad

 

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.

Ingredients After Some Time on the Grill

 

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.

Roasted Salsa Farro Salad

 

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!

Dinner! Farro Salad and Black Beans

 

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.

Breakfast Farro Ingredients

 

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.

Sweet and Spicy Breakfast Farro

 

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.

Beautiful Bell Peppers

 

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.

Farro Stuffing for Stuffed Peppers

 

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.

Peppers Stuffed, Ready for Tomato Sauce and the Oven

 

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.

Stuffed Pepper and Salad for Supper

 

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.

Navy Beans and Farro

 

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.

Chopped Vegetables

 

I sauteed the vegetables in a very large Dutch oven along with some olive oil.

Vegetables Sauteeing

 

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.

Beans Getting Tender

 

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.

Luccan Farro Soup

 

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.

Soup, Bread and Cheese

 

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.

 

Week Seven – Navy Beans and Steel Cut Oats (and some rice for good measure)

After a Thanksgiving week full of fattening, but delicious foods, I was ready to get back on the beans and grains bandwagon. On Sunday I cooked a half pound of navy beans and a pot of steel cut oats. I also made a pot of rice that we could use for dinners. I just couldn’t see us eating oatmeal any other time than breakfast.

As I was getting my navy beans ready to cook, I started wondering how they are different from great northern beans, which I cooked a few weeks back. Navy beans are a little bit smaller and I think they hold together better when they are cooked. As far as their flavor, they are quite similar. I think they could be easily interchanged in recipes.

Great Northern Beans (left); Navy Beans (right)

I cooked a pot of McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.

I used Martha Stewart’s overnight method. To have my oatmeal ready on Monday morning, I started on Sunday night. I brought two and a half cups of water to a boil. I added 2/3 cup of steel cut oats (not the quick cooking kind). Gave that a stir, let it cool and then stuck it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I put the pot back on the stove, brought it to a boil and simmered for about 12 minutes.  Martha Stewart calls that two servings. I call it three.

 

A Pot of Steel Cut Oats

 

I also made a pot of rice. I used Ming Tsai’s brown and white rice mix. I soaked a cup of brown rice in water for a couple of hours, then drain. Mix the soaked brown rice with a cup of white rice, and three cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

So we had a whole lot of beans and grains on hand to start the week. Get busy eating!

Day One- Senate Bean Soup. This famous soup  is served every day in the US Congressional dining area. That is a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century. The recipe and the beans vary. But the traditionally, they use navy beans. I used the recipe found in the Joy of Cooking.  You can find lots of recipes online as well.  I used about 2 cups of cooked beans and all of the bean broth. I added some finely diced celery and onion, a bay leaf, a little bit of smoked paprika, and a cup of diced potatoes. I had some little Yukon Gold potatoes on hand, butI think Russet Potatoes are more traditional. I cooked this in my small crock pot. I added some water to the mixture as well. I cooked all this until the potatoes were not just tender, but falling apart. I put about half of the soup into the blender and pureed it (Be careful with hot soup in a blender!). I  added the pureed soup back to the pot.

 

Senate Bean Soup

 

This was really good. I have never cooked this before because the recipe calls for a ham hock. I was afraid that without the ham this soup wouldn’t have much going for it. But it was great. The paprika added a nice color and a smoky flavor. I served the soup with salad and a loaf of homemade bread.  Husband and I both loved this.

Day Two, Three and Four – Oatmeal for Breakfast. My partially prepared oatmeal had been sitting in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning I finished the preparation and had a nice bowl of oatmeal. I added some vanilla almond milk to it. And topped that off with chopped dried apricots, banana and some slivered almonds. I used agave syrup as a sweetner. But honey or brown sugar would have been every bit as good.

I had plenty of oatmeal for three breakfasts. I tried to change up the toppings each day so that I would have some variety. I found a link to a segment Mark Bittman did on the Today Show called “Five Ways to Jazz Up Your Oatmeal“.  Following his advice, on the second oatmeal morning, I added peanut butter and bananas to my bowl of steel cut oats.  And the next day I added coconut and raisins. I was sorry when my oatmeal was all gone! Oatmeal is a nice way to start the day.

One last thought about oatmeal. I found several websites that sang the praises of savory oatmeal. You could eat savory oatmeal for breakfast or for any other meal of the day. I was interested in that idea, but most of the recipes called for cheese, bacon, an over-easy egg, or some combination of those things. Runny eggs turn me off. But I am interested in the savory oatmeal idea. I just need a little more time to wrap my head around it. Check out this website for some savory oatmeal ideas and some gorgeous photos.

Day Three – Stir Fry and Fried Rice. I wanted a nice stir fry for dinner and Husband wanted fried rice. I am sure that you have noticed that Husband and I often eat different dinners. We have been doing that for years and it is a result of our different diets and preferences. He eats fish and fowl. And I don’t. There are many nights when we each cook up a separate meal. But we always cook together. And we always sit down and eat together. It works for us.

Anyway, on Day Three, I cooked for both of us. Our meals were similar enough that it was easy for me to do. I stir fried broccoli, mushrooms, onions, carrots, sugar snap peas. When the vegetables were crisp tender, I added some pineapple chunks to the wok. I made a quick sauce of soy sauce, juice from the pineapple and some chili paste.

For the fried rice I used the same vegetables but cut them up a little smaller. Stir fried those, added a couple of cups of cold cooked rice to the pan. Stir fried that a bit. Then created a well in the middle of the rice and added a beaten egg. When the egg had set up, I stirred it into the other ingredients. I seasoned all that with soy sauce and topped it with some cilantro and chopped peanuts. Husband added some chopped up, left over turkey to his fried rice.

Day Four – Three Bean Salad. Husband had a turkey burger for dinner and I had a veggie burger. We made some oven fried potatoes. And I put together a nice three bean salad using the cooked navy beans. I used a cup of navy beans and about a half cup each of canned green beans and canned kidney beans.  I added chopped red onion and celery. I made a dressing for the salad with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and a little bit of honey for sweetness. The beans and dressing marinated together for about an hour in the refrigerator. A very nice side dish.

Day Five – White Bean Spread with Pita Chips. This is a recipe that I got from a cookbook written by Heidi Swanson. It’s a great book with lots of recipes for beans and grains. The book is called Super Natural Every Day.

I put to tablespoons of good olive oil in a small saucepan. I added a garlic clove, cut in half and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Rosemary grows like a weed in South Texas. I have several plants growing in my front yard.  Heat the olive oil to infuse it with the garlic and rosemary. Remove the garlic clove and the rosemary stem.

In my food processor I combined a cup of drained navy beans, about 2/3 of the infused olive oil, a healthy squeeze of lemon, a small handful of slivered almonds.  Process that to a smooth consistency. You may need to add a little bit of water to get it just right.

Put the dip in a small serving dish. Top with remaining oil and some slivered almonds. Serve with pita chips. It was a great afternoon snack. I only wish that I had made it earlier in the week so that I could have been snacking on it all along.

Day Six – Cauliflower Biryani. Biryani is an South Asian rice dish. I am certain that I didn’t make a traditional biryani. But that’s what I am calling it. I sliced up some cauliflower, sprayed it with olive oil and put it in a hot oven to roast for about 12 minutes. Meanwhile I browned some onions in a skillet. Then added some chopped tomato and chopped cilantro to the skillet. When the tomatoes were softened I added a little bit of curry powder and let the spices bloom for a minute or so. I added some of my navy beans and some kidney beans as well.  I added the roasted cauliflower and a cup of rice. This was a very nice lunch dish. If I had had some chutney it would have been perfect!

My so-called biryani served in a tiffin dish

Post Mortem on the Navy Beans and Steel Cut Oats – I am going to start making those steel cut oats every week! It is a great breakfast. And as we learned from Mark Bittman, it can be dolled up in lots of different ways. The Senate Bean Soup was delicious. Next time I will make a bigger batch so that I can have leftovers. The navy beans were easy to cook.  They are mild tasting so they are extremely versatile. I also had a pot of rice. Because I limited my oatmeal to breakfast…that seemed to be a nice addition. This was a great bean and grain week.