Quite a long time ago, I had farro for the first time in a restaurant. The resto was linked to a wee store that sold many items connected to the meal one just ate. I bought a bag of farro, and with red face admit that it sat in my cupboard for far too long, with me being unsure of what to do with it. Since then, alternative grains are now a part of our lives. We have become accustomed to using quinoa, bulgur, amaranth, millet, chia and other ancient grains - and most of them are indeed ancient, with roots in civilizations as old as the Aztecs and Egyptians. Many are gluten-free, which might, in part, account for their increased popularity. The production of quinoa, for example, increased almost 250% from 1961 to 2013. (Source) Oddly, we seem to be willing to pay more for these ancient grains, which in turn, has had problematic consequences for poorer populations in countries producing the grains.  

Today, I have a better understanding of grain similarities and substitutions and I can't imagine not knowing how to cook farro. If my imagination fails me, an internet search on 'cooking ancient grains' garners almost a half million results - such as the helpful Serious Eats Guide. Cookbooks with 'grain / whole grain / ancient grain' in the title are also abundant. I own The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook by Judy Finalyson (Canadian) and Quinoa 365 by (also Canadian) Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming. Their website, "The Quinoa Sisters", is worth a visit - and reminds me they now have four books! I still have not made it through the first 365 - though everything I have tried has been great! 

Ancient grains appear in all meals of the day, and in savouries and sweets. This recipe is (with a few minor edits) from America's Test Kitchen's "Cooking Fresh" - another publication from which I could happily make / eat everything! I use this as a warm side, but it is good next day even as a cold/room temperature salad - and I bet there are people who'd consider it a healthy breakfast as well! [Don't forget to review my Tips (below) before you begin.]

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1 cup whole farro
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms trimmed and chopped coarse
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 TB dry sherry
2 TB minced fresh parsley
1 tsp sherry vinegar

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add farro and 1 TB salt, and cook until tender - 15 to 20 minutes. Drain farro, and transfer to a large bowl. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms, shallot, thyme and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, until moisture has evaporated and mushroom / shallot mixture starts to brown - 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in sherry and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until pan is almost dry - 1 to 2 minutes.

Add farro and cook, stirring constantly, until heated through - about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in parsley and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.


Notes and Tips...

  • Buying Farro - this is almost the most brain-hurting part of making farro. ATK's Cooking Fresh refers to farro from Italy, noting that the grain comes in three sizes - small, medium and large, and that medium is the most common in North America. They also caution against using the "pearled / perlato" variety. My grocery store had farro imported from Italy (Pantanella brand) and/but the small print used the word "spelt". What!? Are farro and spelt the same!? Apparently not - as explained by @thekitchn - though they note that Italians do tend to use the terms interchangeably.  The Pantanella brand I bought worked well in this recipe. Another good bet is to get farro from Bob's Red Mill.  Their site explains that theirs is "very lightly scratched, as is traditional, to allow for a faster cooking time". They also have ideas for it's use - such as, farroto instead of risotto.
  • Mushrooms - seems to me you could use any type of mushroom, or a mixture. After the first time, I now use more than 8 ounces.
  • Shallot - if you have none on hand, regular onions are fine.
  • Sherry - substitutions include Madeira, Marsala
  • For KB Recipe Attribution Practices please click here.

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