Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Listening: John Renbourn: Faro Annie*

“Our chefs have tended to steal the show, which I guess is the nature of good chefs.”- John Renbourn

In our restless pursuit of the new or the next, we often rediscover something old. Farro is one such rediscovery. Farro is an ancient grain that has been around long enough to be found in the tombs of the Egyptian kings.
There is some confusion surrounding the exact variety of wheat that should be called farro. Common to Italy is emmer wheat, what some call “true farro.” The Germans and Swiss grow spelt and the French have epeautre.  All of these varieties belong to the genus triticum (triticum aestivum is “common” wheat) but the three are different varieties hence all of the confusion.
Most important though is to buy farro that’s labeled as either pearled or semi-pearled, a milling process that cuts the cooking time; if the package says that cooking time is 25 to 30 minutes, that’s what you want.
Whenever I make something like this or rice for example, I always make enough for four servings and put the rest away in the refrigerator to use later.

Basic Farro
For four servings
2 cups lightly salted cold water
1 cup of farro
1. Place the water into a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the farro, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the farro for 25 to 30 minutes. Taste the farro. It should  be chewy, like an al dente risotto but it shouldn’t have any “crunch;” if it does, continue to cook the farro. Remove the farro from the heat and drain into a colander.

Pan Roasted Fish with Kale and Farro with Blood Orange Sauce
For two servings

I used salmon, which is readily available but any firm fleshed fish would work. Pacific halibut, which is coming into season, would work well too.

Two 4 to 6 ounce portions of salmon fillet
1 cup cooked farro
4 ounces of kale (I used black kale, also called Tuscan kale, or lacinato kale)
¼ cup minced shallot or onion
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking

1. Remove the stems from the kale and discard. Chop the kale into small pieces and set aside.
2. Place a large sauté pan onto the stove over medium- high heat. When hot, drizzle in about 2 to 3 tablespoons
olive oil. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2- 3 minutes. Don’t let the shallots brown; lower the heat if necessary. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the chopped kale and about ½ cup water to the pan; season with salt and ground black pepper. Cover and let the kale soften, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add extra water if necessary. Taste the kale as it cooks; it should be tender to the bite. Stir 1 cup cooked farro into the cooked kale. Add additional olive oil if the farro/ kale mixture appears dry. Remove from heat and cover and set aside.
3. Prepare the orange sauce:

Blood Orange Sauce
2 blood oranges, juiced and strained (any orange will work, too)
1 Tablespoon cold, unsalted butter

1. Place the orange juice into a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and reduce the juice by ½  to 2/3. Remove pan from heat and cook the fish.
2. Place a sauté pan over high heat. Swirl in a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan. Season the fish with salt and ground black pepper. Place the fish skin side up into the pan and cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes (cooking time is about 10 minutes total cooking time for well done for 1” of thickness). Turn the fish and continue cooking to for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or to your preferred degree of doneness. Remove the fish from the pan and drain any excess oil on a plate lined with paper towels. (If the fish has skin, can be carefully removed before serving).
3. Before serving return the saucepan with the reduced orange juice to low heat. Whisk in the tablespoon butter.
4. To serve, divide the farro/kale mixture between two plates. Top with a piece of fish and spoon the blood orange sauce over each portion.

“Now that I’ve made extra farro, how can I use it?” Glad you asked.
Farro in Risotto Style

You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. This is what I had. Feel free to improvise. Farro isn’t as starchy as Arborio rice so I added a little light cream for the creamy texture of risotto.

1 cup cooked farro
4 ounces of kale (leftover from the pervious recipe)
¼ cup minced onion
1 to 2 cloves, minced
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 cup diced butternut squash
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
¼ cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (you can always use more)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons light cream
1. Prepare the kale as in the previous recipe. Set aside when tender.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Mix the mushrooms, tomatoes, and butternut squash with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil; season the vegetables with salt and ground black pepper. Spread the vegetables onto the tray in one layer. Toss the thyme into the vegetables. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes; remove from the oven and turn the vegetables over. Return the vegetables to the oven and roast for an additional 8 to 10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Remove the vegetables from the oven.
3. Place the pan with the kale back over medium heat. Add the cooked farro to the pan. Stir in the vegetable stock. Remove the thyme sprigs from the roasted vegetables then add the roasted vegetables, Parmesan cheese, butter, and cream to the farro  Stir until everything comes together. Divide between two bowls and serve.

*Faro Annie was John Renbourn’s last album for the Transatlantic label, the label that, in his words, “had pretty much picked me up off the street and given me a start.”

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