Friday, June 29, 2007

Mediterranean Farro Salad

I just love David Rosengarten. He used to host one of the greatest cooking shows of all time, "Taste" where he gave loads of context and lore to one particular ingredient and then demonstrated the technique for cooking one dish. A whole half-hour show and he only ever produced one dish per episode. But it was well worth watching. I know a lot more about Argentinian grass-fed beef, apple tarte tatin and the flavor umami that I ever would have without him.

He also taught me about farro before I moved to Italy and had a chance to actually taste it. Farro, or spelt in English or Triticum dicoccum in Latin is an ancient grain, given as rations to Roman soldiers and ground up and eaten like polenta by the poor. In more recent times, farro went by the wayside in favor of grains that yielded more kilos per acre than farro. About 20 years ago, however it made a comeback with inventive French chefs who tried to outdo each other in originality reaching back through the centuries to create dishes that were simultaneously "new" and traditional. Once farro hit France, it made it's way back to chic tables in Italy as well.

Here's my take on his recipe from the Dean & Deluca cookbook:

1 cup farro (or kamut or whole wheat berries)
1/2 cup crumbled feta (of any nationality you want)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion rings
1 crushed garlic clove
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 roasted and peeled red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons of chopped kalamata olives or whole capers
1 sprig fresh mint minced
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
10 medium leaves of basil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup the best olive oil you can afford
salt and pepper to taste

(from the original recipe, I've tweaked the amounts a bit and have added basil while taking away cumin and cayenne pepper. The hot pepper in combination with the piquancy of the feta created a flavor clash that actually kind of hurt the first time I made this.)

Place rinsed farro in a pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes or until grains are tender. Music to boil farro by: The First Taste by Fiona Apple Drain off water and pour farro into a large salad bowl. Add all other ingredients stir to combine and serve at room temperature.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

farro rocks. Catherine

11:53 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I'll be making this one, Susan; I just love the Mediterranean flavors you've chosen. I always enjoy the chewy texture and subtle nutty flavor of farro. My Italian-American mother-in-law introduced me to it about 3-4 years ago, and I've been eating it ever since.

I think I would have loved that cooking program. It's nice to focus on one dish instead of trying to do 3-4 in a half hour.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is actually really amazing! i bought some at an upscale deli. i thought it might be really gross..but it was delicious!!

5:42 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Susan, So you can get farro where you live? That's great. It's a thing I transport every time I come back to the States because I've never seen it in a grocery store.

Hi Anonymous, I'm glad you tried it. I love the nuttiness. Thanks for stopping by.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous KQB said...

Looks awesome! I loved farro soup in Lucca :)

3:43 AM  

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