Tag Archives: Farro

Summer Farro Risotto with Corn

single bowl with fork and napkin 625 sqThis is pure summer in a bowl. More accurately, it’s a love letter to corn. If all you’re looking for is a little fling with some boiled corn, slathered with butter and a dash of coarse salt, then this is not the dish for you. This is for someone who is in it for the long haul, willing to make a true commitment to corn.three bowlsEssentially this is a corn risotto, made with farro instead of rice. The simmering liquid is a corn puree which adds the sweetest pure corn flavour imaginable. For crunch, corn kernels, red onion and bell peppers are briefly cooked and then added. The ripest local tomatoes are added for a fresh hit of acidity and verdant basil adds a welcome fragrant note. Some grated parmesan adds richness and salt.

As with any long term relationship, there is some work involved here, and it will get a little bit messy. No getting around it. Chop, dice, sauté, puree, and stir. It’s worth the effort, I promise. ready to cookStart with some of the freshest corn you can find. Cut it off the cob and sauté with some olive oil and finely diced onion.sauteeing cornAdd vegetable stock to the cooked corn and onion and let it simmer until very soft. Then the whole lot gets blended and strained for a velvety corn puree. adding veg stockstraining corn pureeOnce the farro is simmered in vegetable stock and drained, it’s time to roll. And yes, you will need to dirty two more pans. I warned you, corn love is messy.farratto mise en placeTime to introduce the intense corn puree to the farro. Let it all simmer away until hot and creamy.adding corn puree to farro

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Click here to print recipe for Farro Risotto with Corn.

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Winter Farro Salad

in bowl fAlthough I have posted about farro herehere, here, here and here, I am of the opinion that you can never have enough good farro recipes. I just adore this nutty versatile grain. I discovered this winter version in the November 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. Associate Food Editor Claire Saffitz had a similar version at the NYC restaurant Charlie Bird. They simmered the farro in apple cider to infuse it with a lovely tart-sweet essence.apple cidercooked farroThe cooled farro is tossed with crunchy julienned apples and celeriac.celeriacYou have to believe that the first guy to come across one of these gnarly roots was in an extremely weakened and ravenous state. It would have taken quite a leap of faith for someone to come across this in the wild and decide that eating it was a sound idea. 

This knobby root is Celeriac (also known as celery root). I have often come across them in the supermarket, but had no idea how and where to use it. However, in January, when fresh local stuffs is in short supply, you need to go outside your comfort zone and embrace the ugly! Celeriac has a mild delicate taste, rather like a cross between celery and parsley. Beneath that grody exterior lies a heart of snowy white goodness. 

Taming this beast is not difficult. Slice off the top and bottom so it sits flat on the cutting board. Slice around the sides and hack off the brown outer skin. Julienne it for raw salads or cube it for simmering in soup. If you are using it raw in a salad, store it in water with a splash of lemon juice after cutting to prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.  Drain and mix into salad just before serving.peeling celeriac

cutting celeriac into julienneSalty black olives and shaved Pecorino Romano cheese are added as a welcome balance to the cider sweetened farro. Italian parsley leaves provide a verdant fresh punch. I added some pickled red onions because I love how pickling tames their bite. A final garnish of toasted pine nuts and this salad is ready for it’s closeup!serving bowl 3 625 sq

 Click here to print recipe for Winter Farro Salad.

Greek Farro Salad

composed 625 sq 1aSavvy contemporary chefs have a secret ingredient in their cuinary tool box. If you remember this treat from your childhood, you might guess what this mystery ingredient is.Lik-m-aid packagesLik-m-aid, a sweet-sour treat was eaten by licking your finger, sticking it into the little envelope and coating your wet finger with the crystal-like powder inside. Then you would lick your finger to eat the tart-sweet goodness. It came in several fruit flavours; lemon, lime, strawberry, raspberry, grape and orange, but a quick look at the ingredient list (dextrose and citric acid) revealed that this treat contained no actual fruit. Today Lik-m-aid is sold under the name of Fun Dip and it comes with a candy dipping stick so modern kids do not have to use their fingers. I hope that kids today appreciate how good they have it. fun DipChefs in the know are using citric acid to create pucker-inducing flavours that consumers are starting to embrace. Sour is no longer a four letter word.  Sour beers are gaining in popularity, and the pickling craze is not about to die down any time soon. I fully expect Carla Hall to introduce “Can you Pickle it?” based on her wildly amusing (well, amusing certainly to my sisters and I ) game, “Can you Blend it?

Citric acid occurs naturally in lemons, limes and other citrus fruits. It is also manufactured in a dry powder form by adding a special mould to glucose and letting it ferment. The dry powdered stuff is the one that chefs are using to elevate flavours and bring harmony and balance to a finished dish. It is easily available in small bags at most bulk food or health food stores. Food writer Shawna Wagman calls it the “fairy dust of flavour amplification.”

Here in Ottawa, Chef Kevin Mathieson, founder of Art is In Bakery, is creating magic with it. He sprinkles a touch of citric acid and confectioners sugar on citrus peel or wild Quebec blueberries and lets it dry out for a week. Then he grinds it all up in a coffee grinder and adds it to jellies for filling house-made chocolate truffles and marmalade that gets thickly spread on their buttermilk multi-seed bread for Sunday brunch.

The Food Section of the April 9 2014 Globe and Mail featured a recipe for a Greek salad dressing using citric acid. Chef Carlotte Langley learned to make this from the  French-Lebanese mom of the very first chef she worked for. I decided to creat a Farro Greek Salad to showcase this fantastic dressing. Tart and full of bright zingy flavour it plays very well with the nutty, chewy farro and all the fresh crunchy vegetables. mise en place 2 I usually just cook farro in boiling water, but I learned a great method over at Food52. I added half a red onion, a clove of garlic, parsley and salt to the water to infuse the farro with more flavour. flavouring farroI am not a huge fan of raw red onion, so I thinly sliced and pickled it. A short 20 minute bath in red wine vinegar, water, salt and sugar are all that’s needed to tame the harshness.pickling onions

Click here to print recipe for Greek Farro Salad.

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Check out what Lindsay over at Love and Olive Oil made using citric acid! 

 

 

Springtime Farro Salad and Delusion

625 sqI wish this was the blog post that told you how much I have always hated quinoa, that is until I tried “this” salad. Then I would go on to swear that even if you too are a quinoa hater, this one recipe will change all that and you may now join the righteous and good quinoa lovers of the world. But sadly, this is not the case. I have tried this salad, this one, and that one too. I have not tried it all these ways, but I do believe I have given it a fair shake, and I just don’t like it. It tastes like like a toxic combination of sand and gravel to me. I can’t deal with those tiny grains. They just mush all together in my mouth. There is no chew to them.

The first time I tried quinoa, no one told me that Mother Nature, in all her infinite wisdom, created a bitter coating of saponins over each grain so that the birds would not eat it all up. It needs to be rinsed before cooking. Apparently I am not on Mother Nature’s mailing list so we ended up having to throw dinner in the garbage that night.

I really do want to like quinoa. It has been given the prestigious title of “Superfood”, given it’s incredibly high nutritional value. It is a source of complete protein, a good source of fibre, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and calcium. I just can’t stand it, so I do the next best thing to eating it. I choose a different grain to substitute in all those salads and delude myself into thinking that it has just as much nutritional value as quinoa. Hey, it works for me. I am excellent at deluding myself about all kinds of things.

Lately my grain of choice has been farro. I have written about farro here and here.

I know it’s almost summer, but the Farmer’s Market, where I live, has not gotten the memo yet. Radishes, spring onions and mint are about the only local veggies to have bravely popped their heads out of the recently frozen earth. So a Springtime Salad it is. This gorgeous salad is the creation of Eric Vellend, food editor at Canadian House and Home magazine. You could substitute barley, wheat berries or even, dare I say it, quinoa. Hey I won’t judge.radishes

green onionsI adore the hefty chew that farro brings to this dish. The sugar snap peas, barely blanched add sweetness and crunch. The radishes and green onion add a balancing bitterness and sharp bite to the nutty farro. Mint and lemon add the final notes of freshness.sugar snaps

spooning saladClick here to print recipe for Springtime Farro Salad.

 

 

The Best Thing I Ate Today in Umbria Day 8

This morning, after breakfast, we headed out in the mini-bus and were dropped off about an hour’s hike away from the town of Pitigliano. This little hillside town, south of Florence, on the Tuscan border, has a fascinating Jewish history. Our guide for the day was a young woman named Elisabetta. She grew up in Pitigliano as a history and archaeology scholar. She also runs the local library in Pitigliano. As we hiked into town, she gave us a brief history of Pitigliano.

Jews began settling in Pitigliano in the 15th Century. The Jewish population continued to grow as more Jews were forced out of Rome because of Pope Paul IV’s segregation policies, requiring Jews to live in ghettos. Pitigliano was an attractive place to settle for many Jews because it was not part of the papal state and was an independent province, ruled at the time by the Orsini family. The Orsini’s social policy was quite laissez-faire and the Jews were permitted to live a freer lifestyle. A synagogue was built in 1598, followed by the construction of a school. Jews were permitted to set up their own businesses as carpenters, tailors, weavers, shoemakers and moneylenders. The city soon became known as La Piccola Gerusalemme or “Little Jerusalem.”

Over the next several hundred years, depending on who was in power, the fortunes of the Jews of Pitigliano either waxed or waned. However, despite restrictions during various periods, the Jewish community continued to grow and prosper.  In the mid 1800’s the Jewish population of Pitigliano reached almost 400 people, which represented over 10% of the total population.

After the unification of Italy in 1861, the Jewish population of Pitigliano began to decline. Many Jews moved to larger cities nearby for economic reasons.  By 1931, there were only 70 Jews left living there.  Anti-Semitism was rampant by 1936 and then in 1938 racial laws were instituted. During the Holocaust, the brave Christian people of Pitigliano risked their lives to hide and save Jews that were escaping from the Nazi terror. They hid them on farms in the valleys and in caves up in the hills.

After the war, only 30 Jews returned to Pitigliano. The synagogue had been damaged during the war. Today despite the fact that there are only 3 Jews left in Pitigliano, the Jewish cultural heritage has been preserved. The synagogue was rebuilt in 1995. One of those Jews is Elena Servi.  She is president of Associazione La Piccola Gerusalemme (The Association of Little Jerusalem), an organization made up of both Catholics and Jews. Elena and her nephew have made it their life’s mission to tell the story of the history of Pitigliano so that future generations can learn from it.

It is a beautiful story of cultural and religious co-existence, tolerance, compassion, respect, friendship and affection between Christians and Jews. The association has raised funds to restore and preserve all the Jewish monuments in the town, including the Synagogue, the “Forno di Asimo” (the Kosher oven) and the Jewish Cemetery. The citizens of this town honour the memory of the Jewish citizens that once thrived in this place. They feel strongly that it is important to remember and preserve the history and maintain these sites so that it will never be forgotten. It is a very moving tribute.

A beautiful web site, devoted to Pitigliano has been created by one very special man. Click HERE to check it out!

We went to see the Kosher oven where matzoh for Passover was baked so many years ago.

We had the privilege of meeting Signora Servi and she spoke to us about her experiences during the Holocaust. She and several members of her family left the town in November 1943 and were hidden away by farmers and peasants, outside of town, moving from one small farm to another, until June 1944. The last 3 months of hiding were spent in a cave under the protection and support of a local Christian farmer.

After meeting with Elena, Elisabetta took us over to an old wine cellar (Cantina Sociale) where we were served an incredible lunch.

Platters of food kept arriving at the table. Of course the requisite Pecorino cheese made an appearance. We had a 2-month old one which tasted very fresh and nutty and a 1-year-old one which was drier and had some straw undertones. Then they brought Stracchino, a mild soft white cow’s milk cheese to the table with 3 sauces (cactus, acacia honey and pear and pepper) to accompany it. The name of the cheese derives from the Italian word “stracca”, meaning “tired. It is said that the milk from tired cows coming down from the alpine pastures in the fall, is richer in fats and more acidic. These qualities were discovered, according to legend, in the milk of cows who were moved seasonally, up and down the Alps to different pastures. The milk of such cows gives the cheese its characteristic flavors. It has a mild milky flavour, similar to cream cheese but a bit more acidic, with just a hint of tartness. It just melts in your mouth. When paired with the sauces it became something different all together. I loved it best with the pear and pepper sauce.

The crostini with olive oil was unbelievable. I have never had an olive oil this fruity. The olive oil soaked into the toasted bread and softened it ever so slightly. There were two kinds of farro salads, both with chickpeas. The first had thinly sliced purple onion and was dressed simply with olive oil and sea salt. The second had tomatoes and basil and was also dressed with olive oil and sea salt. I could not get enough of these farro salads. My favourite eat of the day! The chewy nutty farro contrasting with the creamy chickpeas was an unbeatable combination. When I came home I created my own version of this, adding pickled shallots.

Click here to see the recipe for Farro and Chick Peas with Pickled Shallots.

Of course we were served kosher wine, produced by The Pitigliano Cooperative Cellars. It is sold in a winery just outside of town.

We finished with a wild cherry and sheep’s milk ricotta cheese pie.

After lunch we had a chance to tour the wine cellar.

Then it was time to visit the Synagogue.

Once inside the synagogue, one of our friends asked Elisabetta if it would be okay if he could lead our group in the mincha (afternoon prayer) service. To hear Hebrew being sung in this place was very emotional for all of us. This  town of mostly Christians wish to honour the memory of the Jewish citizens that once thrived in this place. They feel strongly that it is important to remember and preserve the history and maintain these sites so that it will never be forgotten. It is a very moving tribute that left me feeling very hopeful about a future when all religions can peacefully co-exist.

After we left the synagogue, we felt kind of drained of all our energy, but in a good way. We just wandered around the town, taking it all in. The buildings in this walled city are constructed out of the soft yellow volcanic rock, “tuff.” The cobblestone streets are narrow and the pride the residents take in their homes was beautiful to see.

We discovered that Italian cats like to dine on pasta,  elderly men in Pitigliano like to hang out in a group, outside on benches, just like elderly gentlemen all over the world and my friend Philip discovered that the women of Pitigliano are incredible flirts.

Stay tuned for Day 9 when we become totally shallow, abandon all interest in culture and history and visit the Italian outlet malls!