Wish Upon A Dish: Creamy Root Vegetable Farrotto

March 10, 2013

Creamy Root Vegetable Farrotto

This must be my month for seriously making a dent in last year's Wish List.
I am sorry to admit I bought a bag of Farro probably over 1 year ago. I think because it is vacuum packaged, the threat of rancid emmer never had to inspire me into using my stash before contemplating the perfect preparation befitting this glorious ancient grain.

Before rice, risotto was made with barley, farro (emmer wheat) and even buckwheat.
I have a great Beef Barley Risotto recipe I often make. It is simply a version of beef barley soup with mushrooms. I suppose because of that dish I was happy to stumble on a farrotto (risotto cooking technique with farro) made with root vegetables. This is an excellent way to introduce your family to a Super Food that they will love. Farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. But lacking the heaviness of many whole-wheat grains, farro tastes more elegant than earnest.

Farro (triticum dicoccum) is an ancient grain dating back to 10,000 BC that became a staple for the Roman Legions as they marched across Europe and has been enjoyed ever since by families all over Italy. Throughout the evolution of these hulled grains farro has retained many of its original healthy properties. Although understanding the history and evolution of farro is informative, the more important fact is that Farro is really tasty, very easy to prepare and very nutritious!
Here are some quick "healthy" facts about Farro Perlato: it is higher in protein than in regular durum wheat - 8g / 9g per cup depending on the producer; unusually high in fiber compared to other grains - again 8g / 9g per cup; Also higher than wheat in vitamin B complex; it's a good source of Vitamins A, C, E and rich in magnesium; it's low in fat - NO saturated fat and NO cholesterol; and most intriguing, it has a low Glycemic Index (GI) of 40 (YAY).

Now that we know it's good stuff, where can we buy it?
Buying farro can be an expensive nightmare until you understand what NOT to buy.
Whole Foods carries farro but it is labeled "whole". DO NOT GO NEAR THIS STUFF. It does not have the hull polished from it and will never soften, even after three hours of cooking.
You need to look for Farro Perlato. Amazon sells it as well as many specialty food sites (nuts.com) and in Italian specialty stores. That's were I got mine, right in town. Once you are the proud owner of farro perlato, the rest is easy.  Bring lots of salted water to a boil like you would for pasta.  Stir in farro and cook until tender but toothsome, about 20 minutes.  Drain and serve hot, or rinse in cold water and serve in a salad. You can also cook it using a risotto method just like you would Arborio (or any other type of risotto rice).

Now that we know how and where to buy it, cook it and the nutritionals, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Most recipes pair farro with earthy vegetables....mushrooms, root vegetables, leeks and beans. I think that spring vegetables are too lite for this grain. Save them for your quinoa. This food is such a win-win for diabetics, why would you not want to incorporate it into your diet?

I now have a new favorite. Sorry barley.
Even if you are not diabetic and you are interested in adding more grains to your diet and only want to try one at a time, this is a good one to start with. It's chewy but not rubbery, has a wonderful nutty flavor but not overpowering. Would work great in a salad with corn, black beans and sliced steak or the other direction of broccoli, asparagus or mushrooms. I am going to make a large amount, toss it with a lemon vinaigrette and add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped kale and pine nuts for lunch next week week. 

Creamy Root Vegetable Farrotto
Adapted from The Chew

* 2 cups farro
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 bunch radishes, quartered

* 1 shallot, finely chopped
* 2 parsnips, peeled and julienned
* 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (veggie for Vegan)
* 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
* 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
* salt & pepper

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro to the pot and cook for 18 minutes or 1 minute short of the package instructions. Drain. The grain should be cooked with a slightly chewy texture.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium-high in a large saute pan. Add the shallot and radish quarters and season with salt. Saute for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the radishes are caramelized and slightly firm inside.
3. Add the parsnips and garlic and saute for about 1 minute, just until fragrant. Stir in the prepared farro.
4. Deglaze with the white wine. Add the stock and cook until the stock is reduced by half.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmigiano and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil.

I served this with two 2" thick porterhouse lamb chops (1 each) that I marinaded in lemon zest, oregano, garlic and olive oil. Hands down one of the best chop dishes we've had that was not grilled on the Weber.

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