Farro- Going with the Grain
Are you looking for something different to incorporate into your cooking? A versatile ingredient you can use to add more flavor, a different texture, or added nutrition to your meals? Might I suggest a new grain you can incorporate into the everyday dishes you already prepare? Maybe you'd like to use it to experiment with new dishes to enjoy?
Farro is a type of hard wheat also called emmer, is a non-genetically-modified ancient grain. Originating thousands of years ago, emmer gave rise to all durum wheat. Cultivated in the Garfagnana, an area of forests in northern Tuscany in Italy, farro is considered the original grain from which all others derive, a grain which fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years. Rich in fiber (10%), protein (15%), magnesium, and vitamins, farro also becomes a complete protein source when combined with legumes.
Farro is classified into 3 grades:
The first, “hulled emmer” (or decorticato in Italian), is the whole grain in its purest form with all the outer bran intact. Hulled grains are pre-soaked in water for 8 hours before cooking, then cooked for 15 -30 minutes. You may omit the pre-soaking if you allow a 40-50 minute cooking time.
The second, “semi-pearled emmer” (or perlato in Italian), has a portion of the outer bran removed. This eliminates the need for pre-soaking, so cooking time is reduced to approximately 20 minutes if boiling and 30 minutes if steaming. That is the same amount of time it takes to cook most other grains, rice or lentils, so it's perfect for any quick weekday meal.
The third “cracked emmer” (or spezzato in Italian), is the grain entirely hulled by machine and broken into a coarse texture. Similar in size to bulgur wheat, this grade cooks in about 10 minutes with no pre-soaking is required.
Also available, and of note, is “stoneground wholemeal emmer flour” which is hulled emmer that has been milled into flour. It is perfect for making pasta, tart dough and biscotti.
Today farro is making a resurgence in the restaurant and food industry, and with good reason. When cooked, this ancient grain has a nutty flavor and firm texture closely resembling cracked wheat or brown rice. Farro may be substituted for any grain, rice or lentil in dishes such as pilaf, risotto, tabbouleh, or cold salads. It is a simple way to add a boost in flavor and protein to many of your favorite recipes.
I enjoy being creative when cooking with farro. The other night I roasted some Spar’s Italian sausages in red wine with whole garlic cloves, onions, sweet and hot peppers, and toasted fennel seeds. I boiled 1 cup of semi-pearled farro (perlato) in 4 cups of water for 20 minutes. I then drained the farro and set it aside while I sauteed onions, garlic, carrots and celery in olive oil until they became soft. To the softened vegetables I added some wine, tomato sauce and chicken broth along with the cooked farro. I let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The finished result was a creamy mixture similar to vegetable risotto. I used the farro risotto as a base for the roasted sausages and peppers. This dish possessed a great combination of complementary flavors.
One of the best things about cooking is leftovers, and I truly enjoy the challenge of creating a second meal using my leftovers; welcoming additional ingredients in order to make a new and exciting preparation. So the next night I made a soup using my leftovers. I started the soup by bringing some wine and chicken broth to a boil to which I then added my leftovers with the addition of some cannellini beans. I simmered the mixture until it was piping hot. I garnished the hot soup with grated romano cheese, a drizzle of a good olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. This fast and easy soup made a comforting and delicious meal.
These two meals are easy to make and use ingredients from local markets. The farro is available at Guercio’s, the Italian sausages came from Spar’s European Meats.
Guercio & Sons
250 Grant Street 14213
Spar’s European Meats
405 Amherst Street 14207