FRESH TAKE ON FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES

Grains and roasted veggies are a classic combination, one that I like a lot and shows up at our table on a regular basis. But lately I’ve incorporated a small extra step into it, and it is a game changer.  Interesting expression, by the way. From my “foreign perspective”, it is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, if the game is going well, a game changer would ruin it.  But the term, adopted by the Oxford dictionary very recently (2012), always has a positive connotation. Which makes it perfect to describe the addition of fresh veggies right before serving this dish. Game-changing. I promise.

FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup farro
5 carrots, peeled and cut in sticks
bunch of asparagus
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
yellow grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh lemon juice to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the farro and cook (as if cooking pasta) until al dente. Cooking time will depend on many factors, start checking at 25 minutes, it might take 40 minutes or a tad longer. When cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.

Coat the carrots with a bit of olive oil, season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 420F oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Lay they on a microwave-safe dish, season very lightly with salt and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add a paper towel on top to cover them lightly. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve.

When the carrots are almost done roasting, add the asparagus and gently mix them. If necessary, add a touch more of olive oil. Roast the two veggies together for a final 5 minutes. Immediately add the fresh tomatoes, toss all veggies together, and place in a serving dish together with the farro. Adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First, let me say that cooking farro as if it’s pasta (freely swimming in a huge pool of water), is another game changer. The problem with farro is that if you go by a specific ratio of water to grain, sometimes you hit the jackpot (that is the grain is perfectly cooked when the water is absorbed), but sometimes it is either too hard or mushy.  This method takes all the guessing out of it, you cook, you test it as the cooking goes along, and when it reaches the level you like, it’s over. Drain it, and incorporate in any recipe you like.

As to the veggies, I realize this is a little more involved than roasting a bunch of them together and calling it a day. The thing is, I am not too fond of the woody texture that the asparagus gets when simply roasted. With braces, the situation gets even worse. So I use my favorite method of preparing them, a very brief encounter with the microwave, and then finalizing in the oven. It gets the best of both worlds.

Finally, the fresh component. The real game-changing bit. Amazing what that does to a roasted veggie concoction. It brightens up the flavors, and makes the whole thing taste quite a bit lighter. You can use tomatoes of any color, diced cucumber, radishes, kalamata olives, and guess what? Grapes! Seedless grapes, cut in half. You will be surprised how well they pair with roasted veggies. I intend to try strawberries next. Why not, right? With a little rose harissa just to take it truly over the top…

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FARRO SALAD WITH ROASTED LEEKS

I suppose this could go to my “work in progress” folder.  But, Phil liked it exactly this way, so I decided to share the recipe adding possible tweaks in the comments.  One important thing to mention: although this is a salad, it’s equally good served warm. Those of you still in sub-zero temperatures and avoiding even to glance at a salad plate don’t need to shy away from it. In fact, we enjoyed it hot on the first day piled up next to a  juicy flank steak, grilled medium-rare. Comme il faut...  😉

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FARRO SALAD WITH LEEKS, CHICKPEAS AND CURRANTS
(adapted from The New York Times

2 large leeks, halved lengthwise, cleaned and sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
1 Tablespoon olive oil + 1/8 cup, divided
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can of chickpeas, drained (15 oz)
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
1 cup dry farro
1/3 cup dried currants
2 celery stalks, diced

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Using a large rimmed baking sheet, toss leeks with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread leeks out in a single layer  and roast, tossing frequently, until golden brown and crisp at the edges, about 20 minutes.

Drain the chickpeas and add them to a pot with boiling water for a couple of seconds. Drain again, dry well.  In a large bowl, toss leeks with chickpeas, lemon juice and zest,  chile flakes and salt to taste. Stir in 1/8 cup olive oil.  Let marinate while you prepare the farro.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook farro until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Toss with chickpeas mixture. Stir in currants and diced celery. Taste and add more salt or lemon if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

marinating

Comments: The original recipe was written for 2 cups of farro, definitely too much for the two of us.  I halved the recipe, keeping all ingredients in the same proportion, but considerably reducing the olive oil. I was shocked to see the amount called for in the recipe. For two cups of dried farro, they used 2/3 cup of olive oil in the dressing.  Keep in mind that 1/4 cup had already been poured just to roast the leeks. It amounts to 1,700 calories (> 800 for half the recipe) just in the oil component!   Thanks, but no thanks.  I used a tiny amount of oil to roast the leeks, and only 1/8 cup for the whole dressing.   If you like your salad heavier on the oil, I suggest drizzling some more at the very end, before serving.

Now my possible modifications for a future version.  I think raisins would have been better than currants.  And, for my personal taste, the roasted leeks overpowered the dish.  When I make it again, I will use raisins, increase the amount of celery, and reduce the amount of leeks.  That will be a real winner for me.

served1

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FARRO: GOOD FOR YOU AND TASTES GREAT TOO

Farro:  a fun word for a mysterious grain, about which a lot of controversy exists as to its origin.  Some say it’s a type of wheat, but that’s not the case,  farro is a grain from a related, but different plant.  It was a staple at the height of the Roman Empire,  and persevered since those days until now in central parts of Italy, where it’s still grown,  consumed and exported.   Farro is loaded with vitamins and low in gluten, so even people with gluten allergies may enjoy it. Plus, it performs well in  many kinds of recipes, from risottos to breads, from stews to salads.  What an amazing little grain, that’s perfect as the focus of my 200th post!   😉

BEWITCHING FARRO SALAD
(from my kitchen)

to cook the grain:
1 cup farro  (not the pearled variety)
2.5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

for the dressing (it will make more than you need):
1/2 cup olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon (or other citric fruits, alone or in combination)
pinch of salt
ground black pepper

for the salad:
asparagus, finely sliced in tiny “coins”
radishes, cut in match sticks
diced tomatoes
diced cucumbers
minced cilantro (optional)

Cook the farro by mixing it with water and salt in a saucepan, bringing it to a boil and gently simmering it for 45 minutes (or a little longer, taste to decide when it’s fully cooked, but don’t let it get mushy).  If the grain cooks but there’s some water left, drain it. Otherwise just fluff it with a fork and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Make the salad dressing by mixing the olive oil with lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper.  Reserve.  Add the asparagus and radishes to a small bowl and sprinkle with some of the salad dressing, mixing to lightly coat them.

At serving time, mix the cooked farro with the diced tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro (if using), asparagus and radishes, add more dressing to taste, adjust the seasoning.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: A couple of years ago I watched Anne Burrell  use raw asparagus as the main ingredient in an unusual salad.  She inspired me in this farro recipe.   Since the asparagus spears are raw,  thinly slice both them and the radishes.   If you add some dressing to these two ingredients and allow them to rest while you prepare the remainder of the salad, it will mellow their sharpness.

I haven’t given any exact amounts for the ingredients so that you can play with them, using more or less, depending on your own taste.  Skip some, add something else (onions, diced olives, capers, mint leaves), and adapt the dressing too: orange juice complements asparagus and farro quite nicely!

The grain doesn’t go mushy in the fridge overnight, and in fact the salad was still outstanding next day. I can see raw asparagus in our future quite often: couscous, orzo, and cracked wheat salads will never be the same…

My husband, after polishing off leftovers, said: “You are making this again, right”? – I guess food bloggers’ partners live in fear of never tasting the same dish twice… 😉

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