Yes, I am cheating on barley. I’m having an affair with farro.
If you’ve never had farro, you’re in for a treat. This ancient grain is from the wheat family and was originally grown in ancient Egypt. It’s been popular in Italy for ages, and is making its way into American kitchens and restaurant menus.
Farro is a little like barley in consistency appearance, but I find it much nuttier in flavor. One of my very favorite dishes is at Martel in Fairfield, which serves seared scallops over farro studded with fresh mozzarella. Absolutely to die for. One of my favorite home recipes is from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, which pairs farro with roasted butternut squash, walnuts and goat cheese (photo below). Heidi has many farro recipes I’d recommend trying out–but this is my hands-down favorite.
For years, farro was only available at specialty stores, but now is much more widely available. Trader Joe’s just introduced little blue bags of “10 minute Farro” which are great for a quick side dish, as an addition to soups, or to be used as a base for a grain salad (like the dish I mentioned above). I do think some flavor/texture is lost when using the quick-cooking variety, but it’s great in a pinch. Regular farro takes longer to cook (like regular rice or barley), but is worth the time if you have it to spare.