Post by Anjanette Barr, Contributing Writer
Until a few weeks ago Farro could have been the name of an Italian car for all I knew! I would have at least had the Italian part right.
When it arrived in the mail from a lovely family member who knows how much I love to eat cook for my family, I had never heard of or seen it before to my knowledge, but evidently it’s become quite popular. This video from Bob’s Red Mill on cooking farro describes it as the “darling” grain of foodies, so it’s likely that you are more in the know that little ‘ole (isolated in Alaska) me.
What is farro?
Well, ahem… not a car. 🙂
Farro is a whole grain that is an ancient strain of wheat. It has a chewy, nutty flavor that is somewhere in between brown rice and barley in my opinion. Because it is a type of wheat, it does contain gluten.
Also called Emmer, Farro is higher in fiber than common wheat and is milled more like einkorn or spelt. It can be used to make bread, but is more often consumed as a whole grain. It is popular in Italy (hence the name), and grows wild in the middle east, but is making a comeback here in the United States.
How is it Cooked?
Because farro is a whole grain, it does take a little bit to cook. If you are concerned about reducing phytic acid levels in grains, you should soak it overnight in water with an acidic medium like whey or apple cider vinegar. This will cut back on the cooking time as well. If you don’t want a long soak, even letting it sit in water for 30 minutes before cooking helps a lot with tenderness.
When you are ready to cook it, the ratio is 1 cup farro to 3 cups liquid. It will take 30-45 minutes at a boil to get to a nice chewy but not tough texture.
What Should I Pair it With?
My aunt suggested cooking it up in large batches and using it in meals throughout the week. She eats it on it’s own with milk and honey. It is also commonly used in place of pasta with a white sauce, or in place of rice in a risotto. In savory dishes, herbs, feta, and tomatoes seem to be a common theme. It can also be added to soups and stews.
Here in Southeast Alaska, it rains a LOT. The temperatures are very mild – between 30 and 70 degrees almost year round. And the flat land area is very limited – we are nestled in between warm ocean waters and gorgeous snow-capped peaks.
I know there are a handful of ambitious and knowledgeable gardeners around here, but we have no farmer’s market and no CSA farms. So when the booth next to my Lilla Rose hair jewelry booth at the arts & crafts fair this month had fresh basil, my food-loving self did a little happy dance and bought a bag. It didn’t take long to dream up a few dishes to use it in, and the first one used farro. Here ya go:
Farro Salad a la Juneau
No real recipe needed. Just combine the following ingredients in a bowl and serve warm or cold, your choice! I’ve included measurements for enough to feed a family of 5 or so. It’s a wonderful Summer meal. Enjoy!
Cooked Farro (1 cup when dry – see instructions for cooking above)
2 Cans Cooked White Kidney Beans (or equivalent from dry)
6 ozs or more Crumbled Feta Cheese
3 Medium Sized Tomatoes – diced
Handful of Fresh Basil Leaves – torn into smaller pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
Have you ever used farro? What is your favorite farro dish?