A mouth full of springtime

May 6, 2009

As I am in the business of helping others try new things and taste new food, it seemed about time to try farro. Oh, have you not heard of my little farro friend? He’s not very well known, sadly. The package I found at Whole Foods described farro as “Unhybridized wheat” and the one fact that seems undisputed is that farro is an ancient grain from Italy.

Well, it certainly was more expensive than regular wheat! (If you can’t find or don’t want to shell out $8/lb. for farro, by all means substitute barley or wheat berries in the recipe I’m going to share with you today.) But I was taken by it’s history and mystique, and as it turns out, its delicious flavor.

Farro, cooked and drained.

While I was in the mood for trying new and unusual things, I adapted this recipe to include baby vidalia onions, fiddleheads and ramps. Why not? Springtime is only once a year, people. I was mostly afraid of screwing up these fairly expensive ingredients: ramps were $9.99/lb. and fiddleheads were $7.99/lb. My hope is that when the Farmer’s Markets FINALLY open here in Boston I can find them cheaper.

Baby vidalia onion, roasted.

Fiddleheads, rinsed.

Ramps, naked.

This recipe basically happens by cooking up each individual ingredient separately, then mixing it all together and topping with a delicious citrus dressing. Expect that your first bite will be so delicious your eyes will open super wide and begin to roll in your head as you savor all the delicate flavors of spring in your mouth. Not to toot my own horn but hot damn this was good! And although the recipe may seem long, it only took me about an hour start to finish.

Springtime Farro
adapted from 101cookbooks.com’s Heather’s Farro Recipe
3 cups farro (or barley, wheat or spelt berries)
splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
3 baby vidalia onions with green tops (sometimes called spring onions)
12 ramps
1/2 lb. fiddleheads
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup goat cheese
1-2 cups whole basil leaves
about 6 cups of mixed lettuce greens
3/4 cup olive oil

For dressing:
2 shallots
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 orange, juice and zest
1/2 grapefruit, juice and zest
1/2 grapefruit peeled and chopped
1 Tbl. white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
S+P to taste

1. Soak farro overnight or at least a few hours in a bowl of water with a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
2. Slice onions lengthwise, toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, s+p. Place face down on cookie sheets and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
3. Drain and rinse farro. In medium saucepan, cover with 1-2″ of water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until tender but not falling apart. Mine took about 20 minutes.
4. Rinse ramps and slice off roots. Cut white bulbs from leaves and then slice leaves into 1″ pieces. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan over med heat. Add bulbs and a dash of S+P, and cook for a minute or two. Add leaves. Cook 1 minute or until soft. Set aside.
5. Rinse fiddleheads well. Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with a dash of S+P in pan and cook fiddleheads for about 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Taste along the way so you can tell when the flavor goes from pretty good to mmmm very good! Set aside.
6. When onions are done, remove from oven and slice off green tops. Slice bulb into quarters and separate the sweet, roasted layers.
7. When farro is tender, drain and combine with onions, ramps and fiddleheads. Add chickpeas.
8. Prepare dressing: Cook minced shallots over med heat for about 2 minutes. Turn off heat and add the fruit juice and zest. Mix with oil, vinegar, nutritional yeast and S+P.
9. On plates, create a bed of lettuce and basil leaves. Add farro mixture and top with dressing. Add grapefruit pieces and crumbled goat cheese as garnish.

If you are going to have leftovers, I’d store all the ingredients separately, especially the dressing.

Thirsty after all that cooking? Try making an iced infusion by soaking a dried herb like rosemary in 2 cups of boiling water. Steep for up to an hour, then transfer to a pitcher and fill with cold water. Chill in the fridge and serve over ice.

Iced rosemary infusion

So, what is your favorite springtime meal? Don’t forget to enter the Mom’s Real Food Recipe Carnival by May 10th to honor your mom and share some of her cooking inspiration with the rest of us!

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