A supremely comforting breakfast perfect for a chilly morning in the fall.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with ancient grains—farro, kamut, quinoa, barley, and more. I love the idea of bringing Old World staples to modern day cuisine. Whole grains are so versatile, flavorful, satisfying, and with a little creativity and attention they can also be quite sophisticated. Recently, I came across this rustic but, très elegant, dish in a new cookbook called Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. Here, farro is scented with anise seeds, which lend an ambrosial quality to this peasant grain.
Whether you’re a food lover, health aficionado, or home chef, this recipe is a great way to integrate an ancient whole grain into your busy, modern life. Here, the flavor and texture of farro is enhanced with heavy cream, but if you prefer, you can substitute it with a thicker milk substitute. I used hemp milk the second time I made this dish. It did not come out as creamy, but the flavor was still stunning.
The term farro is commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties still cultivated in Italy: farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer) and farro grande (also known as spelt). This recipe calls for the emmer variety which is often semi pearled (semi-perlato), thus meaning it retains some but not all of the bran and nutrients and cooks quickly, in 20-25 minutes.
If you have a strongly flavored Mediterranean honey at hand—such as thyme or chestnut—this is the recipe to use it. Some time ago I had picked up some thyme honey from Greece and was happy to put it to use here.
I’d love to hear if you try this recipe and/or your experiences cooking with farro!
2 cups water
1 cup farro
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick
Pinch of fine sea salt
Roasted Grapes, and to Finish
3 cups seedless red grapes (1¼ pounds)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons honey, plus extra for serving
½ cup heavy whipping cream or half and half
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling
To prepare the farro, bring the water, farro, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, drain any remaining liquid, and return the farro to the saucepan.
Meanwhile, prepare the roasted grapes. Position a rack 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler for 5 minutes. Spread the grapes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the honey and toss to combine. Broil until the grapes just start to shrivel and release some juices as they burst, 5 to 7 minutes. Immediately transfer the grapes with their juices to a heatproof bowl.
To finish, add the cream and vanilla extract to the farro and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until the cream thickens slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey, add the grapes with their juices and cook just long enough to reheat the fruit, about 2 minutes. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve warm with more honey on the side. Be sure to read note below.
As I planned to feed a portion to my son, I decreased the amount of honey by a tablespoon or two as I found this dish to be quite sweet. As it is so sweet, I think it can easily be served as a dessert. For added flavors and textures, you can also try adding plums and Bartlett pears.
My husband does not like his farro too chewy so I added a little more water to let the grain cook longer. When preparing the grapes, I found it easier to first toss them in oil and honey in a large bowl before spreading them on a baking sheet. Finally, instead of serving with more honey on the side, I added a little more cream or hemp milk.