Friday, February 22, 2008

Fit for a Farro

This is one of my all time favorite side dishes. Something about it is inherently summery, but that's not to say it's not just as good in the depths of winter. Farro is an ancient grain, and can be difficult to find in the U.S. This is the grain rationed to the Roman legions to keep them strong during battle. It still remains one of the healthiest whole grains on earth. As a plus, it is fabelled to make you a better lover. Although this has no scientific basis, it can't hurt!

In Tuscany, farro is usually found in soups. I really prefer it in a bright fresh chilled salad, where it soaks up a vinegar bite and melds with the flavors of the herbs. I've done many variations of this. This time I used small red beans instead of black, left out the green beans and rings of cute mini bell peppers.

This is the type of dish you should make on Sunday night, chill, then enjoy all week long as a light lunch or side for fish or steak. Like pot roast and kimchi, its flavor improves with time. Make sure you buy semi-pearled farro if you have a choice - it is the whole grain with amazing health benefits, plenty of fiber and a better texture and flavor. I've also seen farro marketed as whole grain Emmer wheat.

3 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups farro

1 1/2 cup cooked green beans, chopped into 1 inch rods
1/2 large red onion, chopped fine
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
3/4 cup sliced sweet bell peppers
1 can low sodium black beans, rinsed (equally good with chickpeas or red beans or a combination)
10 kalamata olives, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup smoked "sundried" tomatoes, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil
dash worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. dried italian seasoning
at least 3 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar, adjust to taste
2 Tbsp. prepared italian dressing
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil over medium high heat. Add farro, stir and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Cool to room temperature.

Toss with all other ingredients and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

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