Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Recipe for Farro with Mushrooms, Thyme, and Balsamic Vinegar

Farro with Mushrooms, Thyme, and Balsamic Vinegar makes a tasty side dish.

Farro with Mushrooms

I'm accumulating a lot of cookbooks, and sometimes I just don't get around to trying anything from them, even when the recipes look great. That's been the case with Lorna Sass' great book, Whole Grains, Every Day Every Way. I've been reading this informative book for months, but this is the first thing I've cooked from it. The book has gotten me interested in many grains I'm not familiar with like farro, spelt, amaranth, and millet. I wanted to try farro for months, but I couldn't find it anywhere in Salt Lake, not even Whole Foods! Then my generous brother Rand got some at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and sent it to me. (I loved the flavor of farro when I tried this recipe, and once I had my hands on some, I did find the same brand of Organic Italian Farro by Giancomo Santoleri at Amazon.com, hooray!) You can also make this recipe with brown rice or barley if you don't find any farro where you are.

Farro is the Italian name for Emmer wheat, an ancient grain which is often confused with spelt (and in Italy it's also called spelt, which adds to the confusion.) Apparently Farro (Triticum dicoccum) and spelt (Triticum speltum) are cousins, but they're not the same grain. Both grains are high in protein but low in gluten, with spelt being even lower than farro. Both are also very high in B vitamins.

Farro is grown in many parts of Italy, Southern Europe and Morocco, and is often used as a whole grain side dish or in soups or risotto. Cooked farro has a pleasantly chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. Some types of farro need to be pre-soaked, but most farro imported from Italy to the U.S. will be "semi-perlato" which means that much of the bran has been removed, and it cooks quickly.

 Because the plant produces low yields, it's relatively expensive compared to other types of grain, but that doesn't seem to be stopping it from gaining increased popularity among health-conscious food lovers. I think the fans of Weekend Herb Blogging might be interested in learning more about Farro, so I'm submitting this entry to Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, who's hosting this week.

This is the way the farro looked before it was cooked. You can almost tell by looking that some of the bran has been removed, so this is definitely "semi-perlato."

I followed Lorna Sass' instruction for cooking the farro in water, and here's how it looked once it was cooked.

Browning the mushrooms well is essential to the flavor of this dish. I cooked them about 5 minutes over fairly high heat.

I was quite excited that I had fresh thyme from my garden to make this, but you could also use frozen thyme or even dried thyme.

Farro with Mushrooms, Balsamic Vinegar, and Thyme
(Makes 4-6 servings, recipe adapted from Whole Grains, Every Day Every Way.)

3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic. each cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup diced red onions (or use shallots which were in the original recipe)
24 oz. sliced baby bella (Crimini) mushrooms, stems cut in half lengthwise and caps sliced in 1/2 inch slices
pinch salt (I used Vege-Sal)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 T water (original recipe called for Marsala wine, but this worked great)
1 T chopped fresh thyme (or use 2 tsp. frozen thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
3 cups cooked farro (see below for how to cook the farro. Cooked barley or brown rice can also be substituted.)

To make 3 cups cooked Farro:
1 cup farro
1 3/4 cups water
pinch salt

Have the water heating in a teakettle or pan so it will be boiling when you're ready to add it to the farro. Use a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. (I used my blue enamel-covered cast iron dutch oven.) Add the farro to dry pan and toast over medium-high heat until it starts to look and smell toasted, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, and then carefully pour in the boiling water (it will boil up and sputter, so be careful.) Add the salt, then turn heat back on to a low simmer, cover pan, and let cook until the farro is tender, but chewy, about 20 minutes. (I would start checking after about 15 minutes. You may need to add a tiny bit more water.)

Use a large heavy frying pan for the second part of the recipe. (I'm not a fan of non-stick pans for some things, but it worked well here.) Heat the oil, then add the onion and garlic and saute until onions are starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.

Add sliced mushrooms and stems, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute over medium high heat until mushrooms have released their liquid and are well browned, about 5 minutes (or longer, depending on your pan.)

Stir in the balsamic vinegar/water mixture and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. (If using dried thyme, add it with the balsamic vinegar.) Add cooked farro and heat 2-3 minutes, stirring gently. If your pan is not non-stick, you may need to add a bit of water when you heat the farro. When farro is heated through and moistened, add the fresh (or thawed) thyme, stir, season with salt if desired and serve hot.

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South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Whole grains like this are a perfect side dish for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet, or any low-glycemic eating plan. This would taste great with Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze or Chicken and Quickly Roasted Asparagus served with Tahini Sauce.

Lots More Bloggers Who've Discovered Farro:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly, check ingredients.)
Jerusalem Artichokes with Farro, Carrots, and Rosemary from Lucullian Delights
Farro and Roasted Butternut Squash from 101 Cookbooks
Farro with Mozarella di Bufula and Tomatoes from The Food Section
Farro with Collard Greens and Bacon Salt from Herbivoracious
Vanilla Farro-Risotto Pudding from Cook and Eat
Farro Risotto with Asparagus and Hazelnuts from Alexandra's Kitchen
Farro, Black Bean, and Corn Salad from Tuna Toast
Farro with Asparagus and Green Onion Sauce from A Veggie Venture
Farro Risotto with Dried Portobello Mushrooms from Redacted Recipes
Farro and Cherry Tomato Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing from Enlightened Cooking
Farro with Cavolo Nero from Feel Good Eats

Want even more farro recipes?
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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at Amazon.com, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. Yummy! I love farro and mushrooms!

  2. I've become a huge fan of farro. While I adore risotto, I find that farro is lighter and better suited for warmer weather.

    Love the addition of balsamic vinegar to your recipe!

  3. Rachel and Ann, thanks for the reminder because when I saw your comments I realized I forgot to say how much I LOVED farro when I finally got to try it, so just edited my post a bit!

  4. Sounds really good! I still haven't tried farro, for shame.

  5. Hi Kalyn - great post! I am able to buy farro at the Pasta Shop in Berkeley - but they do have an online store and you can purchase in bulk:

  6. Katerina, at least I know I'm not the only food blogger who hadn't tried it!

    Sue Bette, I checked and I'm sorry to report that the farro from there is not any cheaper than the brand I have, which is available at Amazon.com. At least people can get it online though, so that's nice.

  7. This looks delicious! I will have to substitute with something as no farro is found here either. I can't wait to see what else you cook with this cookbook, I think I would *love* it!!

  8. Though I eat grains on a daily basis, I have never tried farro. I wish I had some on hand, because this recipe sounds wonderful. I can never resist mushrooms!

  9. Since I'm another person who has never tried farro, but thought about it a lot, this post was extremely informative and interesting. You make it sound wonderfully delicious, so it's time for me to go on a farro hunt (since Amazon, for no rational reason, won't ship their grocery products to Alaska). Thanks for a wonderful WHB entry!

  10. I love farro! Thanks for the recipe, Kalyn . . .

  11. I've only cooked with farro once -- in a tart that was featured in Gourmet last year. It was awful, and whether the fault was with the grain or the recipe, I don't know -- but it all got mixed together in my mind and I haven't tried farro since. Time to have another go; I love mushrooms with thyme, so this is definitely my kind of recipe.

  12. I have been wanting to try farro and this sounds like a great way to do it!

  13. Hi Kalyn, I was talking to a spelt producer at the Real Food Festival a couple fo weeks ago and he told me that Farro and Spelt are the same grain - it's just that Farro is the Italian word for spelt and is therefore the term that you use in the US, while in the UK we use spelt. It seems that you have different info though - now I am really confused!!

  14. Helen, and anyone else who's wondering about it, my Whole Foods Store also told me that farro and spelt are the same thing. However, after reading this book and doing some online research I'm quite sure they are similar, but not exactly the same. I do have some of both,so maybe I'll cook them in the same way and do a taste comparison. I think farro is chewier for one thing, although it will be interesting to see how similar they are. Spelt is certainly cheaper if there's not a big difference in flavor.

  15. I'm so glad you highlighted farro, Kalyn. It's such an amazingly healthy and satisfying grain. My MIL turned me onto it a couple of years ago and I'm hooked. I can't wait to try it with mushrooms and balsamic!

  16. I'd never heard of farro before. This dish looks really tasty--I'll have to scour around a bit to see if I can find some.

  17. I popped into your blog on the right day, this is as delicious as the tofu recipe! It looks very hearty, earthy and satisfying and of course tasty!

  18. That looks fantastic - and I bet it's a grain I'll be able to find here. I'm trying to add more grains as well. Mon mari it tolerant, so far... mushrooms alwys help ;-))

  19. Kalyn, it looks amazing! It's healthy, it's beautiful, great dish!

  20. A lovely dish Kalyn...it looks SO appetizing. We love farro and I will definitely try this version, love the balsamic touch.

  21. This dish looks fantastic! I think farro was what the Roman legions ate. Thanks for a great SB diet recipe.

  22. Thanks for your reply to my comment Kalyn - how confusing! I will definitely try to spread the word that spelt and farro are not the same thing!

  23. I've recently become a great fan of farro. I use the semiperlato available at AG Farrari in Oakland. (Also available at The Pasta Shop and Whole Foods.)

    Here's a great farro recipe:

    Saute one large shallot, diced in about 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I use Stonehouse). (1 minute medium high heat.)

    Add 1 cup sliced mushrooms (I use Bella, but any will do) and continue to saute about 3 more minutes.

    Add 1 cup semiperlato farro and continue to saute at medium high heat about 2 more minutes.

    Add 1/2 cup sherry (don't use cooking sherry) and simmer about 5 more minutes.

    Add 1-1/2 cup beef broth, 2 diced carrots, and 2 diced celary stalks, cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes and begin checking after 20 minutes for desired doneness. Add additional broth, if needed.

    This is best made in a heavy duty steel frying pan.

    I don't use any spices, but, depending on your taste add a verry little salt, some pepper, and terragon or basil. I recommend trying it without spices the first time.


  24. Art, it does sound good. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  25. Mmmm...but I can't have farro since the gluten factor. What are your thoughts on making this with quinoa? Or would you recommend a brown/wild rice blend? Or [plain] brown rice?

  26. M, I'm not that experienced with cooking quinoa, but I'm guessing that either plain brown rice or brown and wild rice would work well in this.

  27. Looks good, I'm planning to do something along these lines tonight!

  28. I found Farro at Costco and just tried it out. Very Good! I look forward to trying your mushroom recipe.

  29. I am so jealous! I've never seen farro at my Costco.

  30. Thanks for the recipe - found you through google, searching for farro recipes. Just made this for dinner - working on farro recipes for a new Sonoma Cafe!

  31. I love farro, hope you liked it.

  32. I'm making this again right now. I use the farro from Bluebird Grain Farms (www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com), no connection just a happy customer. It is the whole grain, not pearled or semi-pearled, not sure if this makes a difference. I find that 1 cup uncooked makes 2 cups cooked. I cook it for 30 minutes, not 20. I'm going to add a cup of leftover brown rice to make up the difference.

  33. Tried this today with spectacular results!!!!!! Used homemade chicken stock in place of the water, and the balsamlmic vinegar makes this dish very special!! Will make this again and again!! Had trouble finding the farro, but fortunately the nature food store has it in bulk. My family approves of this great dish!! Thanks for posting!

  34. Delicious! thank you so much. I had cooked farro prepared but no idea what to with it. Love this dish!


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