February 29, 2008

Rustic farro soup

I walked into the family room on Saturday to find my husband watching Christina Cooks, a vegan cooking show on public television. Christina was rhapsodising about farro, which I now know, thanks to about.com, "has a long and glorious history: it is the original grain from which all others derive, and fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years." Apparently it doesn't produce large yields and has been mostly replaced with more modern grains. Anyway, Christina was making a farro salad and was pouring on the olive oil and folding in heaps of fresh basil and stuff and it was all looking really good but, we're up to our armpits in snow and ice here, and seeing the fresh basil just made me mad. (I'm starting to get a little cranky about the weather.) She was urging her viewers to try to find farro even though it might be hard. Ken was really into it. I could see he was determined to make farro no matter what, so off we went to Whole Foods to do our part to keep the grain alive. As I was starting my second search of the bulk bins, Ken came running over waving a package of organic farro. Looks like barley, I thought.

After we got home, he went off to find another recipe that didn't involve fresh basil and I started to read the fine (very fine I must say) print on the package, and */%#, you have to soak the stuff for eight hours before you use it. Ken was not discouraged. He really likes Christina and wanted to do as she said.

Well. I've been debating with myself about whether or not to post this recipe because I've been pretty careful to post things that match the theme of "easy." This recipe is easy, no question, but it involves an extra step that means you have to plan ahead. Planning ahead is the part that's not easy. My husband pointed out that soaking something overnight isn't hard. And the result is fantastic, so here goes.

Ken made the soup except for the last part, and then was off to the airport, and I finished the cooking and had it for supper. I must say I was surprised by the incredible flavor. It's fabulous. Make this soup. You won't be sorry. I will also tell you that Ken made his own quick vegetable stock but you can use a ready-made version of low sodium stock.
Rustic farro soup (adapted from a Whole Foods recipe)

  • 7 ounces farro (whole, not cracked, triticum dicoccum)
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup carrots, small diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, small diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onions, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes and juice, canned
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 5 cups low sodium veggie broth
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces escarole, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

Rinse and then soak the farro 8 hours or overnight.
In a soup pot, heat the oil on medium and add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and slowly sauté until the onions are translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Add the tomatoes, wine, broth, red pepper and soaked farro. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the farro is almost tender, about 30 minutes. Add the chopped escarole, salt and pepper. Simmer about three minutes (just enough to cook the escarole). Add the thyme. Serve piping hot.

note: Good news! I've been doing a bit more research on the Web and several sources say you don't have to soak the farro, and it will cook in about 20-30 minutes - one cup of farro to three cups of water. Christina herself says you don't have to soak it. In fact, I'm finding the information about farro to be quite varied. One site says it's a kind of wheat and another says it has no connection to wheat and is an entirely separate grain. Most sources say it should be firm and chewy, and the method we used for the soup produced a very soft (but very pleasant) result. All sources say that farro is a nutritionally superior food. Since this was my first experience with farro, I'm unable to be more precise about cooking it. I'll have to experiment with the rest of the package and see what happens. Please leave comments about your results or your experience with this grain.


  1. I think I made the same comment on one of your posts! I only have four bowls but they do make soup look more festive.

    As for this soup, it's really great, but my husband makes it all the time — there's a big pot of it in the fridge as I write — and I think if he makes it again anytime soon I'm going to scream.:) I threatened to delete it but he said he already has a printed copy. I used to think that I'd be grateful for any (vegan) meal I didn't have to personally prepare, but now I'm not so sure.


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