What is Farro anyway? I have eaten it in salad, the same way you would have salad made with quinoa or rice, without having the faintest idea. This ancient grain is a bit of a newcomer to the U.S., although a few minutes of googling revealed it has been popular in Italy for centuries. I also learned that farro is a whole grain in the wheat family and therefore does contain gluten, although less than regular wheat. Pearled and semi-pearled varieties of farro have been through the process of removing much of the hull from the grain so that it will cook faster. In the U.S. farro is mostly available in the pearled form, and in Italy mostly in the semi-pearled form (which takes a little longer to cook). Of course, in the U.S. where convenience is king and we need instant everything, there is also pre-cooked farro, which is what I bought a few weeks ago at Trader Joes: an 8.8 oz. package of “10-Minute Farro.” My plan was to have a go at cooking with it, and apparently tonight was the night!
I have only seen farro salads of varying types in the deli section of natural food stores. But it seemed to me that it would do really well cooked similarly to rice, as a sort of pilaf or risotto. It would also make a vegetable soup heartier and more satisfying, which is great for the winter months. I’ll bet you could add a half cup to a cup of farro to a kettle of soup with very satisfying results. Tonight, since I was making food to pack for our lunches tomorrow, I thought I’d go for some kind of vegetable pilaf. This would also give me a chance to try out the “Stir Fry Kit” I’d picked up at Costco. It said “Kale & Red Chard” but also has got broccoli, snow peas and carrots in it. I appreciate pre-packaged mixes, not only because they are a time saver, but because when cooking for two I don’t always want to have a pound of everything. This was a 32-oz. bag and it looked like enought to cover veggies for two meals this week.
This is how the plan formulated in my head: Roast one half of the kabocha squash that’s been sitting on my kitchen counter since before Thanksgiving, bake up some tempeh, cook up the farro, and stir fry the greens. Then put them all together. It sounded good to me! So I did just that.
First I set the oven to preheat to 400, and then cut the kabocha in half and scooped out the seeds. One half got chopped into bite size cubes with the skin still on, which will be perfect for adding to steams or sautes later in the week. (Unpeeled kabocha cooks up beautifully this way; but roasted the skins, while still edible, are a little tough.) I peeled the other half and cut it into similarly sized pieces, about 1″, and tossed them with a little hazelnut oil. (Note: I could have used any type of winter squash, or packaged cubed butternut squash for quicker prep time.)
Next I placed the kabocha chunks in one layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. To make thrifty use of oven time, I also sliced up 1 package of tempeh into thick slices (I got 11 slices, each about 1 cm thick) and arranged them on the same baking sheet and drizzled with a little Braggs. Into the oven they went. The photo above is from when they were done. Because the kabocha was cut bite-size, they were done within 15 minutes. Within that time the tempeh was lightly browned and a good texture for adding to my concoction.
During that 15 minutes of baking time, I followed the instructions on the farro package for cooking. The ratio of water to farro for the precooked type is 2:1. I decided to cook up the whole package; 8.8 ounces measured to a little less than 2 cups, so used a little less than 4 cups of water. For pearled or semi-pearled farro, you will use 2-1/2 or 3 cups of water to 1 cup of farro, and cook longer. Getting this going took as much of my time as it takes to bring 4 cups of water and the farro to a boil. Then cover, turn to low, and let steam for 10 minutes. Then it would sit, off the heat, for another 5 minutes (like making rice).
While the farro and water were heating up to a boil, I took out my stainless steel flat bottomed wok (OMG, I love this wok! Worth every penny!), added about 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil and heated it up over a high flame. When hot, I added 1/2 of the Kale & Red Chard mix from Costco (this was 1 pound of greens…. you could use about a pound of any veggies you like) and a big clove of garlic that was finely chopped… and stir fried them for about five minutes until tender and pretty. I wanted to eat them right up, but remembered I was making lunch for tomorrow!
Just about now, the squash and tempeh were done. Perfect timing! I added them to the wok, along with a couple of pinches of dried thyme and few dashes of Bragg Liquid Aminos. It would have been fine with a bit less tempeh. Also, instead of Braggs, tamari soy sauce or salt to taste would be fine – if you use salt, add a little bit of water too). I mixed these with gentle love, and then checked on the farro.
It looked a little bit like a pot of oatmeal. A sample taste proved it was done, and just right, too! The grains were split, with a soft, slightly chewy texture, and not mushy at all. But it was way a lot more than I needed. The less than 2 cups of dry farro had cooked up to over 4 cups. I added half of this to my wok, and put the other half aside to cool, and then save for use later in the week..The subtle flavor of thyme was a great complement to all the other flavors. All I had left to do was get our lunches packed and ready for the morning. I had steamed some whole beets earlier in the day, I slid the skins off of two and cut them up into wedges. A couple of chopped green onions for garnish, and we’ve got delicious, nutritious lunches for the next day.
Farro with Roasted Kabocha, Kale and Tempeh
Yield: 2-4 servings
You may use any winter squash instead of kabocha, such as butternut, acorn, or pumpkin. You may also use any vegetables you like; you will need a total of about 1 pound after prep. I would definitely include kale or other dark leafy green and/or broccoli. I used Cost Co’s stir fry mix of Kale & Red Chard. It comes with a packet of stir fry seasoning, which I did not use. For farro, I used Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro. You can use any other type of farro, whole, pearled or semi-pearled. 1 whole package of tempeh was a little too much. You could use 1/2 to 3/4 package.
3/4 to 1 pound kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size chunks
2 tsp. hazelnut or olive oil
3/4 package tempeh (any type), cut crosswise into slices about 1 cm thick
Bragg Liquid Aminos (or tamari soy sauce, or salt)
1 cup farro (10 minute, pearled, or semi-pearled)
1 Tbsp. coconut, olive, or other oil
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
16 oz. of washed and chopped mixed greens
scant 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. butter (optional)
3-4 green onions, chopped (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 400. Toss squash with 2 tsp. hazelnut or olive oil and lightly salt. Arrange in one layer on one half of a parchment lined baking sheet. Arrange tempeh slices on the other half of the baking sheet and drizzle with a little Braggs or tamari soy sauce. Place baking sheet in hot oven and set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use a spatula to turn the squash and the tempeh pieces over. Then bake for 5 more minutes.
While above is baking, prepare farro according to package instructions. If you are using pearled or semi-pearled farro, you may want to do this in advance, as the cooking time is longer. When done, drain off excess liquid.
While squash and tempeh are baking and farro is cooking, stir fry the veggies: Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in wok or saute pan over high heat. When hot, add garlic and chopped greens and stir fry over high heat about 5 minutes, until tender but not soft or overdone. Remove from heat. Add roasted squash and tempeh. Toss lightly. Add cooked and drained farro, and combine. Add additional Braggs, tamari, or salt to taste.
Garnish with chopped green onions.