Farro, the Italian word for ancient hulled wheat, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. You see it on restaurants menus, sold as farro “risotto”, or as well-seasoned accompaniment for meats and seafood. It’s a grain that looks a lot like wheat or rye berries or spelt. But it’s not any of those—we are talking about a different grain here–farro.
Ginger, friend and owner of Orchard House Catering in Hood River Oregon, introduced me to farro a few summers ago; she serves it family style, alongside bowls of cannellini beans and roasted vegetables, and platters of grilled wild salmon and local beef.
This farro came under my radar again that same summer. Another girlfriend lives in the same valley where Bluebird Farms Emmer Farro grows, the Methow Valley in Washington State. She and I, and husband Robbie love farro, its nutty chewiness. You can order organic Emmer Farro from Bluebird Farms.
You will want to use your largest cooking pot for farro as it foams up in the water. That is, unless you employ the pressure cooker, which I do–what happens inside that pot stays in the pot.
Or try pearl farro, which cooks in a lot less time, and is now readily available in upscale grocery stores . At any rate, join the party—ancient farro is this year’s kale. Maybe that’s why kale marries so well with it.
Fantastic Farro and Mozzarella Stew
1½ cups whole grain Emmer Farro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on heat tolerance
6 cups water
1 to 2 cups cooked white beans (navy or cannelloni or Great Northern)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch kale (or parsley) stems removed
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
Rinse farro (and pick out any rogue pieces that are not farro). Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion; cook and stir until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the drained farro. Cook, stirring often, until the farro has a nutty smell and is just starting to brown.
Transfer to a large pot, cover and simmer about one hour, until the farro is tender to the bite. Or use a pressure cooker: bring to pressure and cook 20 minutes, then release the pressure by running cold water over the top. Either way, be sure the farro is tender to the tongue—al dente.
While the farro is cooking, blanch the kale, if using; bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the kale and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and when cool, chop into 1-inch pieces.
When the farro is done, drain, reserving the liquid. Pour about 2 cups of the farro cooking liquid back into the pot along with the farro.
Stir in the cooked white beans, the tomatoes and cooked kale, or parsley leaves. Bring back to a simmer, adding more reserved liquid if needed for a stew-like consistency.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
Just before serving, drop the mozzarella cubes into the pot.
Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with parsley leaves, if desired.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.