Vail’s SImply Seasonal column: Enjoy versatile farro at any meal
I’m not much of a breakfast eater. But last weekend, preparing for a full day of snowshoeing, I met friends for coffee beforehand. I’d typically start the day with a large latte, but the friends were raving on about a porridge. Porridge? Not something I’d ever eat. “Try a bite of this,” one said. Well, this was not the pasty, bland, mushy gruel of my youth. Instead, it was a toothsome blend of grains and was nutty, with a chewy texture. The raisins and cranberries on top were a perfect addition.”The blend includes farro, grits and oatmeal,” said Cima Executive Chef Michael Mayer. “We cook each grain separately, then blend the three together to make this hearty porridge.” Farro is an ancient grain; its historical roots show it may have been the first unrefined form of wheat in the world. It can be traced to the Mediterranean countries of Europe and the Middle East. French farmers are believed to have supplied farro to the elegant restaurants of Paris, where it found its way onto coveted menus. The regional specialty was successful among gastronomes and has since become a trendy item within other cuisines.Packed with protein and fiber, low in calories, farro is versatile amongst health-conscious cooks around the globe. It makes a delicious side dish alongside grilled or braised meats, cooked al dente and drizzled with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Combined with fresh veggies, farro makes a hearty summer salad. Or start your day with the porridge recipe here. Hearty, healthy and oh-so satisfying, this breakfast has a “stick to your ribs” quality, fortifying for a day spent outdoors.
1⁄2 pound Irish steel cut oats (21⁄2 cups)2 cups milk2 cups waterSalt to taste8 ounces grits (11⁄2 cups)4 cups waterSalt to taste8 ounces farro (11⁄2 cups)1 cup skim milk2⁄3 cup waterSalt to tasteGarnish:FlaxseedHoney or brown sugarDried cranberriesGolden raisinsSliced almondsCook each grain separately: Bring the liquid for each grain to a boil in three separate saucepots. (Label each pot to add the correct grain.) Add grain and salt, return to boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Stir each pot frequently, and cook until tender but toothsome – farro about 20 minutes, grits about 30 minutes, and oatmeal about 45 minutes. Mix the three grains together. (Can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated as long as three days; reheat before serving.) Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with flaxseed, if desired. Top with honey, dried fruit and nuts. Serves 6-8.
1 cup chopped carrots1⁄2 cup chopped celery1 cup chopped onion4 cloves garlic, minced1⁄4 pound pancetta, diced8 cups chicken broth1 cup farro2 cans diced tomatoes2 cups chopped kaleSalt to tasteBlack pepper to tasteChopped parsleyOlive oilParmesan cheeseSaut chopped carrots, celery, garlic, onion, and pancetta till fragrant. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add farro and tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer till farro is al dente. Add kale and simmer 5 minutes more. Finish with ground black pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil at the table. Serves 6.
2 cups farro3⁄4 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed, cooked till crisp-tender1 cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved3⁄4 cup chopped walnuts3⁄4 cup dried cranberries1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley1⁄3 cup chopped fresh chives1⁄4 cup balsamic vinaigrette, or to taste1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, dividedSoak farro in a large bowl of water for at least 12 hours. Drain. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the drained farro, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, then cook the farro uncovered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue simmering until tender, about 30 more minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Place farro, asparagus, tomatoes, walnuts, cranberries, parsley, and chives in a large bowl. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over and sprinkle about 3⁄4 cups Parmesan cheese, then toss. Top with the remaining 1⁄4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6-8.Sue Barham is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Cima, now open in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. The newest restaurant concept from internationally acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, Cima is a contemporary Latin kitchen, featuring bold, vibrant flavors with Latino roots, created with fresh ingredients and global cooking techniques. Visit http://www.richardsandoval.com/cima.