Friday, November 14, 2014

Ancient Grains - Discovering Farro

Though Quinoa has dominated the national food conversation for quite some time, there's an upstart grain that's gaining steady popularity, and though it may seem newly on the scene, Farro is as old as they come. Ancient, in fact. Much of my education on Farro comes from this wonderful article I found on NPR. It was here that I learned that there are really three varieties of Farro, and that their differences are determined by whether or not the bran has been removed. We'll be using the Emmer Variety, which is the most common and best if you're looking for a shorter cook time. Aren't we always? 

Farro Salad With Arugula & Purple Carrots, Photo: NK
Emmer is also known by its Latin name, triticum dicoccum.  

Farro has an especially rich history - it is the grain from which many others sprung, and it served as the primary food of the Roman Legion. You might imagine it to be a pretty special grain if it could nourish an army. Indeed, the health benefits of Farro are many. Preparation-wise, it's just as versatile as rice, and it cooks -and looks- a lot like barley. Your can serve it on its own, add it to soups or toss into salads, as we are about to do today. Especially adept cooks might like to transform it into risotto. 
Purple Carrots, Photo: NK

Our hearty Farro Salad will get a little extra flair from the addition of Purple Carrots, a colorful variety of the more common veggie that I've recently discovered. Like Farro, Purple Carrots go back in time quite a ways themselves. In fact, all carrots were originally purple before being bred to be the orange roots that we recognize today. Why would they ever want to change these beauties? Gorgeous though they may be, this carrot variety is incredibly healthful as well.Their deep purple color is thanks to anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds responsible for the deep hue of Blueberries and their super nutritious status. 

Peppery Arugula, another nutrient powerhouse, anchors our salad while a bright Orange Vinaigrette offers a subtle punch. Salty Pecorino Romano lends the round note to complete this satisfying melange of flavors. An ideal potluck, picnic dish, or make-ahead lunch, this Farro Salad tastes even better left over once seasonings truly marry. Farro is a sturdy grain, too. Make it ahead and it will keep its texture and pleasant chewiness until you're down to the last bite. Enjoy! 

Farro & Arugula Salad With Purple Carrots 
Serves 4 

2 Cups of Water
3/4 Cup Farro, the triticum dicoccum variety, optionally soaked a few hours and then rinsed 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 large Purple or traditional Orange Carrots, peeled and diced 
1 small bunch of Arugula cut into thin ribbons and roughly chopped
1-2 ounces Pecorino Romano Cheese cut into thin shards and crumbled 
For the dressing:
1.5 teaspoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Orange Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste 

1. Combine the Farro and Water in a medium saucepan and add the Kosher Salt. Bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce heat to a medium flame and simmer, covered, for about thirty minutes. Set Farro aside and allow to cool a bit.

2. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. 

3. Toss the Farro with the Arugula, diced Carrots, and Pecorino Cheese. Slowly pour the dressing over, tossing gently until well incorporated. Ideally, allow this to sit at least a half hour. If you need to serve it right away that's ok too. Taste for Salt and add a few turns of freshly ground Pepper. Serve and enjoy!

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