Farro is one of my go-to grains for busy weeknights, and weekends too. Although it’s one of the oldest forms of wheat and has been part of the Italian diet since ancient times, its only been in recent years that it gained popularity in the U.S. I use it a lot because I can easily have a pot of farro simmering while I prepare the rest of dinner. Versatile and easy to cook up, farro has got this alluring texture and aroma that pairs so well with a variety of things like soups, salads, legumes and vegetables. If you buy the semi-pearled variety—retaining some but not all of the bran and nutrients—it cooks up pretty fast, about 25 minutes. The more plump and chewy whole grain variety may take a little more effort to cook, but it’s definitely worth the time if you can find it.
I like to make a few extra cups of the stuff at the beginning of the week, storing any excess in my refrigerator for quick and later use. When cooked, farro is plump, chewy and a little nutty, but here I toasted it for the first time. Delish! Toasting gives it a pleasant chewiness and slightly sweet and toasty flavor. You can simply season it with olive oil and salt, or with a dressing like this one made of tahini, a little water, and lemon juice. If you can get a hold of pomegranate molasses*, drizzle a little over this dish for a tart and fruity finish. A beautiful deep reddish purple, pomegranate molasses is thick and has that same sweet and tart characteristic of one of those sweet and sour candies that make your lips want to pucker and smile at the same time.
Toasted Farro with Greens
Slightly Adapted from Food and Wine
1 cup farro
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 packed cups baby turnip greens, baby kale, collards, or spinach, chopped small
1/4 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup almonds, chopped or sliced
pomegranate molasses*, for drizzling (optional)
In a saucepan, cover the farro with plenty of water and bring to a boil. Note: salting the water is optional. Cook over moderate heat until just tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate, until chilled, about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of water with the tahini and olive oil.
In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the farro in an even layer and cook over high heat, stirring once, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and the greens and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the greens are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the tahini mixture and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, pomegranate seeds, and season with salt. Transfer the farro to a bowl, drizzle with pomegranate molasses, if using, and serve.
* Pomegranate molasses is a syrup made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar. It’s not at all like the sugarcane derived molasses. You can find it in specialty grocery stores, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets, and even some of the main-stream supermarkets.