Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vegetable Farro Risotto

i have been wanting to make farro risotto ever since i had it at even tide in arlington, va with E, M, and R. M and i both ordered the local spring vegetable farrotto and loved it. (very clever right? farro + risotto = farrotto)
i have been searching wegmans for farro ever since. they do not carry it to my knowledge but i did find it at whole foods and finally got to conduct my farro risotto experiment.

according to wikipedia, farro is a food product consisting of the grains of certain wheat species in whole form. apparently, "there is much confusion or disagreement about what exactly farro is. some claim it is emmer, others, spelt, and still others think it is its own species. farro is an italian term and there are three species of hulled wheat grown in italy and eaten as farro: einkorn, emmer, and spelt. regional differences in what is locally grown and eaten as farro, as well as similarities between the three grains may explain the confusion."
so there you have it. it looks very similar to another of my favorite grains - wheatberries. after a little research, i decided to cook the farro risotto just as i would cook the arborio rice. E's mom came over and i found some good looking sea scallops at whole foods and decided to sear them and serve them on top of the farro. i also added baby bella mushrooms, zucchini, and peas to the risotto.
while i stirred and stirred the farro risotto, we munched on some raw vegetables and onion dip and sipped lillet.
it was the first time i had the french aperitif and i was expecting it to be much sweeter. i was pleasantly surprised at the flavor and M and i both enjoyed sipping lillet before dinner.
the farro risotto turned out really well and the scallops complemented it perfectly. the farro didn't get the creamy, starchy consistency that arborio rice gets but i added a little milk at the end with the parmesan and it gave the farro the little extra creaminess it needed. while there is really no substitute for creamy, cheesy risotto in my book, this is a wonderful healthier version to try. i will be making this again for sure.

Vegetable Farro Risotto
(serves 4 main dishes or 6-8 side dishes)

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
8 oz sliced mushrooms
2 medium zucchini, chopped
3 shallots or 1 small onion, minced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup farro
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup fresh (or frozen) garden peas
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

heat chicken broth in medium pot over medium heat. when it begins to boil, reduce heat to low to keep warm.

meanwhile, heat 1 tbs olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. add mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. add chopped zucchini and a little salt and pepper. saute until tender, 4-5 minutes. remove vegetable from pan and set aside.

add remaining 2 tbs olive oil to pot and add shallots and garlic. saute until just tender being careful garlic doesn't burn. add farro and stir well to coat each grain with olive oil. cook for 1 minute. add wine and stirring constantly, let wine reduce. add warm chicken broth one ladle at a time and stir farro until almost all chicken stock is absorbed before adding another ladle. continue for approximately 20 minutes or until farro is al dente.

add vegetables back in as well as peas. stir well to combine. add milk and parmesan and stir for 1 minute. remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste* and serve immediately. top with additional grated parmesan if desired.

* note: i only added pepper at this stage because chicken stock and parmesan added plenty of salt on their own.

i topped the farro risotto with scallops that had been seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides and seared in just a little bit of olive oil for approximately 2 minutes per side until just cooked through. it was a wonderful spring/summer dinner for company.

a special thank you to E for diligently stirring the farro towards the end while i seared the scallops and to M for being a wonderful "cook's companion". she was so good to keep me company the entire time i stirred, stirred, and stirred some more.

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