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Potluck: Warm farro salad

  • Katy van Geel

  • Uncooked Farro, and the finished recipe. Photos by Katy van Geel



Friday, December 22, 2017

Suzannah Muspratt, of Amherst, chose farro, a grain with which she was already familiar, for our Five College Learning in Retirement course on Ancient Grains. Farro, an ancient form of wheat, also known as Emmer wheat, was domesticated more than 10,000 years ago, known in North Africa and the Middle East, and fed to the Roman legions. Highly nutritious, it is now grown in central-western Italy and Germany, but as it is hard to thresh, it fell out of favor in the U.S. until around 2009, when farmers in North Dakota, responding to greater interest in ancient nutritious foods, began to grow it again. Then New York chefs picked it up and featured farro on their menus.

It can be found in local markets and co-ops in various forms: whole grain, semi-pearled, pearled, and 10-minute farro. “Pearling” refers to the removal of some of the grain’s bran, making it much quicker to cook. Rinsing before cooking is essential.

Whole farro needs to be soaked overnight, but it is worth it for its rich, nutty flavor and satisfyingly chewy texture. According to Suzannah, “It will keep its crunch through a lot of abuse.”

After we sampled all four forms of this grain, Suzannah served a Tuscan soup with farro, using beans and vegetables; it was both filling and delicious. She also made a cold-grain salad with sugar snap peas and feta; a beef stew with farro; a neutral side dish with farro, spinach and cream cheese, “good for grandchildren who don’t like being assaulted by food”; another vegetarian side with Parmesan and basil; and our favorite recipe, which follows. We all felt that this dish would be excellent as an aromatic warm side that would go well with many holiday dishes.

Farro with Cranberries, Pecans and Parsley

Serves 6 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro

2 quarts water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 tsp orange zest 

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Rinse the farro in several changes of cold water. Bring two quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in farro and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender but still chewy, 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly.

2. Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened but not browned, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, orange zest and cranberries, and cook about 1 minute. Add farro and cook until warmed through, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.