Ever since they began selling farro at Costco in 3 lb. packages at a fairly reasonable price, I find myself making it a lot. It's a great alternative to rice or barley, and is full of healthy goodness. For those unfamiliar with this wholesome grain, farro is a type of hard wheat, sometimes referred to as 'spelt' or 'emmer wheat'. It's considered a mainstay grain in the Mediterranean diet, and has been grown and enjoyed in Italy since Roman times. Farro is naturally high in fiber and contains significantly more protein than wheat. As such, it has grown in popularity, and availability, here in the U.S.
And thank goodness it has, as it is wonderfully delicious and incredibly versatile. In terms of flavor, farro has a wonderful nutty taste and a firm, chewy bite that adds an interesting texture to any dish. I use it in hot dishes, like pilafs, in soups, and it is superb as a salad ingredient as I have done here mixed with roasted vegetables and herbs. As a substitute for rice or barley, it is prepared in the same way - boil in water with a touch of salt added, for 15-20 minutes, drain and its ready to go.
The dish is chock full of great vegetables - eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and most importantly, fennel, whose mild anise flavor makes this dish extra special. But, any mix of vegetables can be used. To finish the dish, I added a few golden raisins for that occasional bite of sweetness, and some fresh parsley and basil.
Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables
recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver
1 cup farro, rinsed
1 medium zucchini
1 small - medium eggplant
1/2 large red pepper
1/2 medium red onion
1/2 bulb fennel
large handful of parsley
large handful of fresh basil
few tablespoons of golden raisins
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the farro: fill a large saucepan with a generous 3 cups of water. Add the rinsed farro and a touch of salt. Boil for 15-20 minutes till chewy, not mushy. Drain and pour into a large bowl.
Chop all the vegetables into bite size pieces and place onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix together to coat all the veggies with the oil and bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes, tossing veggies half way through the baking time, until vegetables are soft but not overcooked. Remove from oven and drizzle with a bit of the balsamic vinegar and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mixture; toss to combine.
Add all the vegetables and the raisins to the rice. Chop the parsley and basil and add to the mixture. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, toss to combine. Add more salt if necessary, toss again and serve.