By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
Ever notice how hard it is to find a whole grain in a restaurant? That’s why I was surprised—and thrilled—to see “Toasted Farro” on the menu of Washington D.C.’s highly acclaimed Blue Duck Tavern. Farro is an ancient form of wheat grown in the Middle East and Italy; it’s a wild ancestor to the cultivated wheat we use now.
I loved the dish—it was both chewy and hearty. The mild-tasting grain was infused with flavors of lemon and herbs. I managed to wrangle the recipe, below, from Chef Sebastien Archambault. A stickler for using fresh, local ingredients, Archambault grew up in France and Texas and has worked with world-famous chefs such as Alain Ducasse. I guess that unusual upbringing is what it takes to put whole grains on the menu!
1½ cups farro
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. preserved lemon* (or 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind)
1 Tbsp. chopped mint
1 Tbsp. lemon oil* (lemon-infused olive oil)
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
3 Tbsp. fresh peas (or frozen and blanched)
4 Tbsp. chopped olive oil cured tomatoes* (or chopped fresh)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced shallots
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
Espelette* (or half a pinch of cayenne pepper)
* Available in gourmet/specialty stores
1. If using whole farro (not pearled, semi-pearled or blanched), soak overnight in water and drain.
2. Add salt to 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Optional: add a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme.
3. Add farro, bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes (less if using pearled or blanched farro). Stir every 10 minutes, and start checking for doneness after 30 minutes. (Different brands have different cooking times and require varying amounts of water. If it gets too dry, add a little water.)
4. While farro is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
5. Drain farro when done, removing herbs if you used them. Let farro cool to room temperature.
6. Add farro to bowl and mix well. Check for seasoning. Serve at room temperature.
Chef Archambault’s advice on cooking farro: “Because farros are different—some are pearled, others in tact—the cooking time is a little unpredictable. It should come out chewy but not hard, plump but not exploded.” He uses Anson Mills, available by mail order. This dish would also work well with four cups of cooked bulgur (cracked wheat).
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