The Caviar of the Grain Family

May 20, 2015

Farro

Dinner Last Night: Farro

I've been lucky enough to have lunch at The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges for the past couple of days.  The food has been – no surprise – fantastic.  Jean-Georges never stints; after a whole array of appetizers (homemade ricotta with strawberries and olive oil, asparagus with morels, pizza…) we've had fabulous halibut (yesterday's with a saffron sauce), and then no fewer than three delicious desserts.  So at dinner, I've wanted to keep it light.

Last night I opened the cupboard and discovered a forgotten bag of farro. It looks like any other grain, but it packs a punch: nutty, robust, and instantly satisfying. To me it's the caviar of the grain family. 

But this was not any old farro; this was the finest strain of ancient Italian farro, slowly roasted to coax out even more flavor. As the farro bubbled on the stove, I inhaled the scent of corn. Was there barley in there too? It was wonderfully round and slightly smoky. 

And while I’ll admit I was tempted to eat it plain, I decided to do something more. I began pawing through the larder, seeking out crunch and zing. 

The result was extremely satisfying. Without further ado, I pass the recipe on to you. 

Farro Salad

 1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and snipped into short strips

1 1/2 cup uncooked farro 

2/3 cup hazelnuts or almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1/2 cup pepitas, toasted

1/3 cup sheep’s milk feta or ricotta salata, crumbled 

1/3 cup dried cherries

 Dressing: 

1 tablespoon harissa

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

Big grind of pepper 

Pinch of sugar 

Bring three cups or so of salted water to a boil. Add the farro, bring to a boil, cover, and set to simmer. Let cook until just past al dente, around 15-20 minutes. Drain and cool until the farro is just warm enough to absorb the dressing without wilting the greens.

Make the dressing. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If you have a low spice tolerance, go easy on the harissa – most varieties can be quite hot. 

Throw the kale, nuts, fruit and cheese into a large bowl, and give everything a good toss. Add the cooled farro. Dress to taste; you should have a bit of remaining dressing to use on leftovers. 

This keeps well, in the refrigerator, for several days. Add a bit more dressing each time you serve it. 

Serves 4. 

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