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
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 about.com:italian 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.