Comfort foods continue their reign. This recipe for an easy and very nurturing one-pot Farro Vegetable Stew has become a favorite. Mid-August, Beth, our Brooklyn daughter-in-law wrote: “I have discovered a recipe that I am currently a little obsessed with, and I think you might enjoy…it’s about the easiest thing ever and is kind of ridiculously yummy!” With such an introduction, I looked up the recipe and made it for dinner that night . . . and a number of night’s since.
With snow on the ground and homegrown tomatoes a fond memory, I’ve adjusted the recipe for fall and winter meals. The addition of Swiss chard, leeks and canned tomatoes along with a large dollop of pesto (from my freezer stash) makes this one-pot wonder ridiculously yummy hot or cold any time of year.
I’m sure by now you’ve seen farro (FAR-roh) on restaurant menus and have enjoyed it in soups and salads. Perhaps you’ve even tried my recipe for Farro & Vegetable Salad w/ Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette. And yet, like me, you may still not be sure as to what farro is? I had originally learned that it was an ancient variety of Italian wheat. But just now I read in a New York Times article that “farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own.” Oh my. Someone please clarify.
Whatever its heritage, farro’s nutrients, versatility, nutty flavor, delicate chew and relatively quick cooking time give it star status in my kitchen.
Semi-perlato or perlato?
To add to the confusion, farro comes in three different forms: whole farro, farro semi-perlato and farro perlato. Farro semi-perlato requires about 30 minutes to cook. That’s the one to use in this recipe for Farro Vegetable Stew.
The farro I purchase at our local co-op is labeled “perlato.” Yet, it takes about 30 minutes to cook.A bit frustrating, I know. So read the suggested cooking time first. If the package/bin says it takes around 30 minutes to cook—possibly labeled as semi-perlato—that’s the farro to use. Go by the suggested cooking time, not necessarily the name on the label.
What about gluten?
Though not gluten-free, farro has considerably less gluten than wheat. People with mild gluten sensitivity, often find farro easier to digest than wheat. If you are gluten-intolerant, unfortunately, farro’s not for you ;-(
Canned tomatoes once again have their place in a healthy kitchen. A number of companies now package their organic tomatoes in BPA free cans. Among them are Muir Glen and Kirkland (Costco’s house brand). Eden Foods goes a step further and packages their tomato products in glass jars.
Farro Vegetable Stew
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe on smittenkitchen.com
Should you be fortunate to have extra, cold or room temperature Farro Vegetable Stew makes very tasty leftovers. Vegan when made with fresh herbs instead of pesto.
Makes 3-4 servings
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
1 cup farro (semi-perlato), rinsed and drained
2- 2½ cups sliced leeks (white and light green parts) or 1½ cups thinly sliced onion
1½ tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or couple of sprigs fresh thyme)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes or other red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard
2-3 tablespoons pesto or ½ cup fresh basil chiffonade or chopped cilantro or parsley
- Stir the rinsed farro into two cups of water before you begin prepping the other ingredients.
- Place the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. When hot stir in the sliced leeks. Cook a couple of minutes till they begin to become transparent. (Note: if using onions, cook, covered over medium heat for 5 minutes until transparent.)
- Stir in the sliced garlic, tomatoes and juice, bay leaf, thyme, sea salt, fennel and pepper flakes. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the farro and soaking water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pan. Lower the heat so the water simmers. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the Swiss chard. Remove the leaves from the stems. Slice the stems ¼-inch thick. Cut the leaves in approximately 1 x 2-3-inch pieces.
- Stir the chard stems into the farro mixture. Place the chard leaves on top of the mixture. Cover the pot and continue to cook for 8 minutes. Stir the chard leaves into the farro mixture. Cover the pan. Cook about 5 more minutes until the chard is cooked, the farro is tender and chewy, and most of the water is absorbed.
- Stir in the pesto or fresh herbs and serve.