We weren't familiar with farro at all so I did a little reading about it on line. Farrro (also sometimes called Emmer) is apparently the original grain from which all other grains are derived. Some people say it is the same as spelt but farro retains a firm, chewy texture when cooked that spelt doesn't. Apparently, ground it makes a good wheat flour substitute for people who can't tolerate wheat. It has begun to regain popularity in recent years especially in Italy. Farro is really good for you with lots of protein, fiber & a carbohydrate that helps to stimulate the immune system. I read that served with beans it is a complete protein which makes it great for vegetarians. To top it off it tastes really good too!
We were making a risotto-style dish but the farro requires a little preparation first with soaking & then simmering. I saw some preparations that skipped the simmering but then ended up stirring & adding broth for 45 minutes! I'd much rather simmer it for a while & then just do the hands on bit for 10 - 15 minutes. Timing was perfect to make this dinner because both the cherry tomatoes & basil were ready to be picked in our garden.
(I wish you could just smell this photo, it's truly the smell of summer.)
The final dish was creamy like a risotto but heartier like we had made it with brown rice instead of white. The freshness of the tomatoes, basil & fresh mozzarella really made the flavors pop in your mouth. Also because we didn't add any cream this dish isn't too heavy like a lot of risottos can be.
Farro isn't something we found in our local grocery store. We actually ended up going to Broders Deli to pick some up. It's not cheap at $14 a pound but I like the health benefits of it. I want to try playing with in in other preparations like a cold salad or in soup. If you can't find farro try wheat berries as a substitute.
Summer Farro Risotto
3/4 c farro
1 T olive oil
1/2 T salted butter
2 T red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c white wine (or chicken stock)
3/4 - 1 c chicken stock or vegetable broth
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
10 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
salt & pepper
Put farro into a bowl & cover with cold water. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain.
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and the soaked farro. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Drain & rinse the farro.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a small saucepan. Keep simmering.
In a medium saucepan heat the remaining olive oil & the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion & garlic. Sauté until tender & the onion is starting to look translucent. Add the farro. Stir to coat. Add the white wine & cook while stirring until absorbed. Add the hot chicken stock about 1/4 cups or so at a time, stirring until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. Keep adding stock until the farro is tender & creamy but still has a slight bite, sort of like brown rice. Stir in the tomatoes & heat through. Remove from heat & stir in the mozzarella & about 3/4's of the basil. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Serve topped with remaining basil.
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