Farro is my new favorite grain

Farro, a variety of wheat, is my new favorite cooked grain, but I realized I didn’t know a whole lot about it.  As it turns out, farro isn’t just one type of grain.  The term can refer to one of three varieties of wheat: einkorn, emmer and spelt.  Grocery stores typically sell the semi-pearled variety, meaning some of the tough outer layer of bran has been removed, which makes for much quicker cooking (barley is typically also pearled for this reason).  Unpearled whole farro would have to be soaked overnight, and even then it would take a very long time to cook and the resulting kernels would be much chewier and tough.

I like farro because even with some of the husk removed, the resulting cooked grains are delightfully chewy.  The grains are bigger than barley, as you can see from the photo above. They’re very versatile.  Thanks to the chewy texture, I’ve used them in veggie burger experiments.  They’re great as a casserole, vegan or vegetarian main dish, and in soups.  You could even eat farro as a hot breakfast cereal, with some dried fruit and chopped nuts, or a bit of honey for sweetness.

Nutritionally farro is similar to other grains, with some variance depending on how much water you used to cook it.  One cup of cooked has about:

  • 225 calories
  • 9 grams protein
  • 1 gram fat
  • 47 grams carbohydrates
  • 5 grams fiber

As with any whole grain, it will contain small amounts of minerals like iron and magnesium, and a variety B vitamins.

I like using farro for grain salads in summer.  It goes great with simple ingredients like tomatoes and fresh herbs, beans, nuts, cheese and dressings of olive oil and lemon juice.  Recently I tried a warm version of this.  Here’s what I did:

  1. Cook one cup of farro in 2+ cups water.  It took about 30 minutes for it to be adequately cooked, yielding plump chewy grains.
  2. Put the cooked farro in a bowl and toss with olive oil (maybe 2 TB) to coat.
  3. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large pan.  Sauté 1/2 chopped onion until soft.  Add 1-3 tsp minced garlic and cook briefly.
  4. Add 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (or one 15 oz can diced tomatoes) and 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (not quite 1 can of drained garbanzos).
  5. Add herbs of choice.  Basil is nice, or fresh oregano or thyme.
  6. Over low heat, stir in the cooked farro and some crumbled cheese such as feta or fresh mozzarella.
  7. Season with balsamic vinegar, 1-2 TB to taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Heat until just warm.  This dish doesn’t need to be hot and overcooked.  You just want it to be warmed up.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a tossed green salad.

Delicious, filling and healthy.  Farro can be cooked ahead and refrigerated, so this sort of dish can make a very quick and easy evening meal, if you’ve got pre-cooked farro available.   You could make it with sautéed peppers, canned roasted red peppers, chopped greens like kale or chard, sliced carrots or even shredded cabbage or Brussels sprouts.  So add farro to your plant-based eating repertoire.

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