toasted farro, fennel and orange salad

August 21st, 2008 · 26 Comments

the vegetarian was coming by, which is always nice because well, i get to catch up with lesley and i get to ponder what mindful, masterful and meatless dinner i can come up with.  it’s funny because i eat quite a lot of vegetarian dinners but never with any great thought to the matter.  like it just might be a big salad with hummus and flatbread, olives, cheese with roasted red peppers and some crusty loaf, or a pasta with say… fresh cherry tomatoes with greens and a ton of percorino, or ricotta and egg yolk, or creme fraiche and truffle oil, or walnuts and mushrooms, or mushrooms, sweet garlic and arugula, or even just garlic and olive oil – ok ok, i love pasta and could come up with countless meatless combos.  but dinners just happens that way – and really, it’s more often than not.  so, omnivore than i am, i don’t automatically think meat.  (although i do kinda automatically think bacon.)

another night many months ago, i had recently invested in a 5 lb. sack of a grain that was beginning to show up on a lot of menus.  so i made a farro dish for lesley, but since then haven’t made much of it in too long. so i set out once again to prepare something that would appear hearty enough to be called "dinner".  and now that i think about it, i’ve decided that every time lesley comes to dinner from here on in, i will serve farro.  and it will be our recurring theme.  "lesley eats farro at claudia’s".  be sure to tune in…

ok, so there were also giant white lima beans on the side because lesley LOVES the giant lima beans and i since i aim to please, i broke open another bag in the name of both making lesley happy and creating the perfect vegetarian protein of grain and legume together.  but i couldn’t taunt you with those.  not again…

farro con finocchio e arance
(adapted from a market hall foods recipe)

1 1/2 cup whole grain farro
2 Tbl olive oil
salt and pepper
fennel pollen
1/2 cup fennel, diced and blanched
1/2 cup fennel, thinly sliced
red onion – thinly sliced into half moons
zest of 2 oranges
2 oranges, peeled and pithed
12 mint leaves, chiffonade
2 Tble red wine vinegar
a good pinch of chile flakes
1 tsp sweet pimenton
fennel fronds for garnish

toss farro with 1 T. extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
toast in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes
place toasted farro in a pot covered with water. bring to a boil
add fennel pollen. simmer 30-40 minutes. when almost done, add salt
cook until grain is tender, being careful not to stir too much
drain and cool on a sheet pan
mix the rest of the ingredients together, adjusting seasoning as necessary
serve at room temperature

after a bite or two we realized that my chile flakes were pretty potent, so lesley suggested a side of yogurt and i luckily had some of the the thick rich (yet surprisingly fat free) greek stuff which went wonderfully alongside this dish.

and now, a word from our sponsor.  ok not really, but this is pretty interesting…

Farro: Grain of the Legions
edited from food

Grano Farro has a long and glorious history: it is the original grain from which all others derive, and fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years; somewhat more recently it was the standard ration of the Roman Legions that expanded throughout the Western World. Ground into a paste and cooked, it was also the primary ingredient in the polenta eaten for centuries by the Roman poor. Important as it was, however, it was difficult to work and produced low yields. In the centuries following the fall of the Empire, higher-yielding grains were developed and farro’s cultivation dwindled: By the turn of the century in Italy there were a few hundreds of acres of fields scattered over the regions of Lazio, Umbria, the Marches and Tuscany.

Farro would probably still be an extremely local specialty had the farmers of the French Haute Savoie not begun to supply it to elegant restaurants that used it in hearty vegetable soups and other dishes. Their success sparked renewed interest in farro among gastronomes, and now the grain is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in Italy as well, especially among trendy health-conscious cooks.

According to Garzanti’s Italian-English dictionary it’s ‘spelt’, but Luciano Migliolli, author of Il Farro e le sue Ricette (Farro and its recipes), says that though it looks rather like spelt they’re not the same. Farro must be soaked, whereas spelt can be boiled straight off. Also, cooked farro has a firm chewy texture, whereas spelt softens and becomes mushy. What this means is that you have to read the package carefully when you purchase farro to make certain you are getting Triticum dicoccum.


Tags: farro · salad

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Becky and the Beanstock // Aug 21, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    How lucky, to be a vegetarian coming to dinner at your house! So often, it seems, veggie dishes are just cursory. This here is a feast for the eyes and, no doubt, for the palate as well.

    I notice not too much in the way of comments yet — I guess your readers lean more toward the meat-embracing side. : )

  • 2 ceeelcee // Aug 21, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Embrace the meat!

    Yeah, I know that sounded dirty. Totally intentional.

  • 3 evil chef mom // Aug 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    my step momster is a vegetarian, so i need good recipes.

  • 4 Donald // Aug 22, 2008 at 3:41 am

    I just recently began incorporating farro into our diet here. I have to say that it is a winner.

    I could do this dish, as a side to a grilled some kind of protein!

  • 5 Jack // Aug 22, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Claudia, now that looks really good. I have a sister who has been a strict vegetarian for over 30 years. I love eating at her house, but could never do it for that long.

  • 6 Robert // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:16 am


    Taunt us, taunt us relentlessly…….


  • 7 Shari // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Oranges and Red Pepper sounds divine. I’ll have to try this without the obligatory bacon, just this once.

  • 8 Lauren // Aug 22, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    i’d like to use the y word, but i shall refrain. however, you should note that the dish looks it.

  • 9 NOBLE PIG // Aug 22, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    What a wonderful friend you are to make a dish like this. This sounds like a grain I would love to add into my very MEATY diet!

  • 10 Tommy Noodles // Aug 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Delicious looking dish!…ground into flour and used in pasta form, it’s actually higher in protein and lower in carbs than it’s wheat sister. Similiar gluten levels so it sheets nice as well. Spelt, shmelt… the grains are virtually the same in gastronomy. But for truly premium farro always go for Garafagana IGP, tuscan farro of Lucca.


    “Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone”
    Big Night

  • 11 MangerLaVille // Aug 22, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I love farro….this looks yummy. I enjoy farro risotto, salads, and even in soups.

  • 12 Delane // Aug 22, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Who knew. All those ‘trendy health-conscious cooks?’ This looks sooooo good. So digestable, we’ll probably leave out the hot stuff and eat it cold. Keep the great ideas coming girl.

  • 13 Heather // Aug 22, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Young Blood, did you ever know how much I love fennel and orange? I’m only growing bronze fennel, so while I have copious golden flowers and pollen, I tragically lack bulbs. Guess I’ll just buy one.

    Triticum is the same genus as wheat (T. aestivum). I already knew that without a handy Wiki, but plants are my bag. I suppose a nice wheat berry would be a reasonable facsimile?

  • 14 Vincent // Aug 23, 2008 at 11:57 am

    I made this for dinner last night (minus the chile except for mine)- Sofie loved it!

    great, great recipe – mint, fennel and chile are wicked together.

  • 15 Kim // Aug 23, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Do you want to believe that I have never eaten farro? Would this go with fried chicken? Hard to believe I was a vegetarian for 15 years and now I am a proud meat eater! Looks good, Claudia.

  • 16 Ben // Aug 25, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    My my, Claudia. This looks like quite a treat. And although I wouldn’t even know where to begin to create such an adventurous vegetarian dish like this, I have come to appreciate the meatless dishes, myself. I just finished a salad that I get daily from the vegan restaurant down the street (I’m not a vegetarian by any means). It’s amazing – the ways that they can dress up tofu and soybeans to deceive your taste buds into believing that they’re devouring a small creature… if that’s what you’re into.
    Kudos to you on your latest feat. Very nice blog here – I’ll try to keep up, but only after I’ve just eaten, so as not to drool all over my keyboard.

    Ben Callahan

  • 17 Peter // Aug 25, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    That looks delicious- it looks like a fall or winter dish to me, though, but I’m up to my ears in tomatoes right now.

  • 18 Frank Vullo // Aug 25, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    I googled farro and found you. I am making this recipe tomorrow. Thank you for putting it on the Internet. Farro really is a great grain and I recommend it highly to those that haven’t tried it.

    Nice to meet you.

  • 19 maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) // Aug 26, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    delicious. we are flush with fennel so this is on my list.

  • 20 Lesley // Aug 28, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Noble Pig–Claudia IS a wonderful friend for preparing this for me. And for so many other reasons as well. It was so delicious and I felt so smart suggesting the yogurt! Not sure I could have made it through the whole meal without the yogurt to cool me down, so I’m glad it was on hand because this dish was too good not to eat.

    (Yes, I’m finally catching up on my reading!)

  • 21 Mari // Sep 7, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I’m as sucker for whole grain salads, thanks to my once vegetarian parents, and this one looks delicious. One of my favorite cold salads is blood orange and fennel, so this seems like a nice winter version.

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