Joyce Goldstein cooked with farro long before ancient grains became a thing. Hailing from the early days of Chez Panisse, she went on to open her San Francisco restaurant, Square One (1984), where she married Mediterranean techniques with the agricultural bounty of California. I had the good fortune to attend a few of her cooking classes, and this is my favorite dish.
Farro has a chewy texture, delicious nutty flavor, and is high in fiber and protein (even more than quinoa!) Use it in pilafs (as here), salads, soups, really in any way you would use rice or pasta.
Farro is a blanket term that refers to ancient varieties of wheat berries (emmer, einkorn, and spelt) that have been pearled (or semi-pearled) and are intended to be cooked and served as whole grains. Imported Italian farro is considered true farro and is made from emmer wheat (triticum dicoccum). Pearling simply means that some or all of the bran has been removed from the wheat berry, which cuts down cooking time. (If you try to cook whole spelt berries that have not been pearled, you are in for hours of disappointment; see Grain Exchange from the New York Times.)
Farro with Butternut Squash and Chestnuts
- 1 2 - 3 lb. butternut squash , peeled and cut into bite-sized dice or other winter squash
- 1 ½ cups farro
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped or use 1 teaspoon crumbled dry sage leaves
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup roasted or steamed chestnuts
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Partially cook the squash: either roast in the oven or parboil for a few minutes in salted water (this can be the same water you are using to cook the farro (see next step). If roasting the squash, preheat oven to 400° F. Place squash cubes on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes.
Cook the farro: Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan with lid. Rinse farro under running water, add to pot with 1 teaspoon salt, bring back to boil, lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the farro is just tender, "al dente", about 15 minutes. Drain off water and set aside. (Will result in about 3 cups cooked farro.)
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan or dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sage and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are tender.
Add the cooked farro and broth to the onions, and bring to a boil. Add the chestnuts and partially cooked squash, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan leaving a small air gap, and cook at a slow simmer until most of the broth as been absorbed. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper.