Okay.  I admit it.  It’s a cheap play on words.  But as gay as I am, even I remember that poster!  The girl was definitely hot!  I had already reached the quarter-century mark when the poster came out and was living up at Lake Tahoe.  I knew of Farrah – but had never heard of Farro.  And probably wouldn’t have been interested in either.

Well… not entirely true.  I’ve always liked grains and I definitely could have used some hair tips…

Tahoe was a time of whole-grains-and-back-to-nature-in-a-’70s-pot-smoking way.  Wheat berries were plentiful.  Whole-grain brown rice was everywhere.  Lots of sprouts.  On everything.  No boxes or mixes.  It was back to nature at its finest.  Granted, we moved from the little house in Tahoe Vista to the big house up above Kings Beach with the 20 foot ceiling and wall of glass overlooking the lake after leaving the little coffee shop and going to work for the glitzy hotel casino, but it was still The Mountains.  We started off with a parachute for floor-to-ceiling drapes and ended up with a huge section of Christo’s Fence, compliments of our new roommate, Susan.

Christo’s Fence was a 24 1/2 mile long 18′ tall fabric fence that ran through Sonoma and Marin before ending at the Pacific Ocean.  It was pretty awesome to behold – and pretty cool to have in our living room.

But back to Farrah.  Er…  Farro…

I probably started reading about farro in Bon Appetit magazine in the ’90s sometime.  I honestly don’t remember, but after getting out of the hotel business in 1989 and getting into health care, I started eating better, again, and I really started paying attention to what was in things.  Aren’t you glad?!?

One thing I did learn right away is farro is not spelt.  There is still a lot of controversy over this but… farro is Triticum dicoccum and spelt is Triticum spelta.  (Common bread wheat is Triticum aestivum.)  They’re all related – they’re not all the same.

Botany lesson is over.

I picked up some farro a while back and decided last night it was time to cook it up – in a risotto!  My first thought when I picked it up was for a wheat-berry-type salad.  I’m glad I held out.

Unlike spelt, farro really needs to be soaked prior to cooking – 30 minutes to an hour usually suffices – so start thinking about this early in the day – not 30 minutes before you want to sit down to dinner.  And it can soak longer – even overnight.

It probably took about 40 minutes to cook – and that meant a lot of stirring and attention – but the final result was worth it!

I served it with a lemon chicken breast.  Really easy!  I mixed 2 eggs with the juice and zest of 1 lemon, and a bit of salt and pepper.  I then floured two chicken breasts and dipped them into the lemony-egg mixture and then quickly browned them in a skillet.  The skillet then went into a 350° oven for about 20 minutes.  I could have cooked the whole thing on the stove, but it was easier to pop them into the oven than to have to watch it while stirring the risotto.

Farro Risotto

  • 1 cup farro
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • several florettes cauliflower, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup mustard seed and ale cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Soak farro in cold water at least 30 minutes.  Drain.

Heat the broth in a small saucepan and keep warm.

In a large skillet or wide pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook until onions are wilted.  Add the drained farro and cook, stirring constantly until toasted.

Add the wine and stir constantly until mostly absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth and stir constantly until completely absorbed. Continue adding the remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until the farro is creamy and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the raisins, pine nuts, parsley, and cheese.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

I used cauliflower and a mustard ale cheddar because that’s what I had in the house.  A cup or so of just about any vegetable would work, as would just about any cheese.  You don’t need a lot – just enough to add a bit of creaminess.  And obviously you can switch the chicken broth for vegetable broth to make it vegetarian, and omit the butter and cheese to make it vegan.

It promises to be good no matter how you do it!