12 February 2013

Recipe review: Warm Farro with Winter Vegetables

Last summer I traveled to northern Italy and made a new friend named farro. I'd never heard of it before, and I have since stocked up and make it pretty often to take to work for lunch.  (Psst, you can buy it in large bags from Amazon for a pretty good price if you're interested.)  I tried Warm Farro with Winter Vegetables from La Cucina Italiana, an interesting magazine that mixes simple recipes with very complicated ones utilizing obscure ingredients, all the while curating rare, traditional Italian recipes and great information about Italian wines.  It's part cooking, part food history and genealogy, and it's a fascinating read if you are interested in Italian food culture, even when you can't make a thing from it.  

If you compare my version of the recipe with the original (linked above), you'll see I tried to save all the flavors present while pairing down the number of dirty pots and tedious steps to follow, a consistent complaint I have about the magazine.  I also bumped up the bacon content, so you're welcome. 

I usually eat salads for dinner, and this is a nice variation on the usual cold vegetables doused in vinegar when the house is feeling particularly drafty.  

Warm Farro with Winter Vegetables
Serves 4

  • zest of 1 orange
  • salt
  • 6 ounces kale, stems and center ribs discarded and sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/2  pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 5 ounces cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed (about 1/2-inch), peeled butternut squash (from a 1 1/4-pound squash)
  • 2 slices bacon (optional), cut into small pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • red wine vinegar
Bring 1 large pot of salted water to a boil. Add farro and cook, stirring occasionally, until farro is tender yet still firm, 20 to 25 minutes. 
While farro is cooking, set up a steamer insert (the kind that sits on top of the pot) filled with the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and celery and cook over the farro.  Check occasionally; depending on how firm you want them, veggies should be done in 15-20 minutes. (If you don't have this kind of steamer, bummer for you--get one at Ikea.  For now, you can do it in a separate pot.)
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and scatter the cubed squash and bacon in a single layer.  Bake until squash is tender and bacon is crisp, about 25 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes of cooking the farro, stir in the sliced kale, and continue to boil until farro is done and kale is a bit wilted.  This is a good time to check the doneness of your steamed vegetables so that they don't get too mushy.
Drain the farro and kale and place in a large serving bowl along with the steamed vegetables, orange zest, bacon (go ahead and throw a little bit of the grease in there, too) and squash; stir to combine.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with red wine vinegar, and enjoy!