Farro, Farro, Farro!

Everyone has been talking about it.  All of the hippest foodies cook with it.  Anybody who is anybody has a favorite farro recipe to share.  Barley and quinoa are just so 2009.  Millet is for lightweights.  Brown rice is like smoking pot in the garage, whereas farro is the hip new designer club drug. 

And what is farro, one might ask?  It’s a brown whole grain that has a nutty flavor and firm texture when cooked.  It pops slightly between the teeth in a way that brings back memories of the whole wheat berries my mother served with milk and sugar for breakfast when I was very small. 

It’s been around forever, and is commonly used in some rural areas of Italy.  That much is for certain.  But there seems to be a bit of controversy about what farro actually is.  Is it wheat?  Whole spelt? Or something entirely different?  I can’t answer those questions.

What I can tell you is that I got tired of being left out of the in-crowd, tagging along behind like someone’s dorky kid sister.  I wanted to experiment, to join the party–I wanted to inhale.   

And it turned out to be remarkably painless.   I didn’t need special connections, or to go to a head shop, or even to crack the bedroom window and light some incense.  I just scooped up a bag of farro from the bulk bins while I was shopping for groceries at the co-op. 

From there, this recipe rapidly coalesced in my mind.  I knew I wanted the caramelized onions from Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for Warm Farro with French Lentils, Caramelized Onions, and Feta, and the mushrooms from Autumnal Farro Salad with Smokey Roasted Grapes, Walnuts & Mushrooms on Becks & Posh.  I had a can of garbanzo beans in the cupboard and kale in the garden.  I wanted a variety of textures, and plenty of smoky, savory flavor. 

It all came together in this recipe and the result is a simple, hearty dish that is a complete meal in itself.  Not that it couldn’t be enhanced with a green salad and a hunk of bread and maybe a glass of sweet white wine, but it also stands alone quite nicely.   The recipe makes about four servings, and reheats well. 

Try it!  I promise you won’t wake up feeling remorseful tomorrow. 

Farro with Garbanzo Beans and Caramelized Onions

  • 1 cup Farro
  • 1 16 oz can Garbanzo Beans
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 6-7 mushrooms
  • ½ chicken breast (optional)
  • 3 cups of kale, torn into small pieces

Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp  hot sauce (I use Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce)

 

Boil farro in plenty of salted water until tender but still al dente, about 40 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes), then drain. 

Meanwhile, slice the onions and cook over medium heat in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Stir often and add a bit of water if needed to keep them from sticking or getting too brown.  It may take 30-45 minutes for the onions to caramelize.  When they are done, they will be a deep brown color and very soft. 

When the onions look close to being done, add the chicken breast and sliced mushrooms.  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it, dice, and return to pan along with the kale.  Add a splash of water and continue cooking until the kale has softened-another two or three minutes.  Combine with the garbanzo beans and the farro.

For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.  Pour over the farro mixture and toss well to coat.

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