Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mushroom Farrotto

Risotto…such a luxurious guilty pleasure. It’s a creamy, decadent dish. One of the greatest things about risotto is it really is not hard to make. The number one rule is not to walk away. But less than an hour of doting on your risotto, bubbling away on your stovetop, will result in the magnificent bowl of warm, luscious food. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you can stir, you can make risotto.

This time around, I am amping the awesomeness up with a little health kick that as it turns out totally rocks taste wise too! Farro, also known as emmer or spelt depending on where it is grown and who is doing the defining, is related to wheat but is more easily digestible and higher in nutritional value such as higher in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. It has a rich, nutty flavor, which is just gorgeous in risotto and pairs beautifully with mushrooms. The Italians calls this dish Farrotto. It’s definitely chewier than your standard risotto, but I really like that texture. It’s a completely satisfying dish.

Making risotto is a method…you can add any flavors you want. Here I’ve made a mushroom version dotted with sweet peas, tender artichoke hearts, and diced grilled chicken. And if you can find mushroom stock, use it. The depth of flavor in this one is out of this world and the color is beautiful! Such a fantastic dinner and leftovers are fabulous. In fact, farro risotto stands up better as leftover than standard Arborio rice risotto because it holds it’s texture.

So next time you are craving risotto, try this farro version instead. It’s healthier but just as tasty.

Mushroom Farro Risotto
A Girl and Her Kitchen

1 c farro
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 c dry white wine (could do red if you wanted)
4-6 c low-salt mushroom broth (can sub vegetable or chicken broth)
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
1 c artichoke hearts, chopped (if using frozen, thaw and lightly sauté with onion and salt to add flavor)
1 c dried wild mushrooms (about 1 oz), rehydrated and chopped
2 c cremini mushrooms, large dice
3/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino (extra for garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 c fresh parsley or basil, minced
1 Grilled chicken breast, diced (optional) (possible marinade before grilling: white wine, olive oil, dried thyme, salt and pepper)

Soak farro in cold water for 20 minutes, drain in a colander, and rinse well. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat, add farro, and simmer 20 minutes. Drain farro, then cool it by rinsing under cold water; set aside.

Coarsely chop mushrooms and set aside.

Bring stock to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep stock warm over low heat.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom pan (i.e., dutch oven) over medium heat. When hot, add the diced cremini mushrooms and do not touch! Let cook for 3 minutes before moving them about. Lightly brown on all sides (about 6 minutes total) and then remove and set aside.
Add 2tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter to the same pan; swirl to coat. Add the shallot and cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to pick up any leftover mushroom tastiness off the bottom. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add the faro and cook to lightly toast, 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add wine and thyme; cook until liquid almost evaporates. Then add rehydrated mushrooms, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to combine.

Add 1/2 cup stock to farro mixture; cook over medium heat about 4 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring semi-occasionally (less than constantly, more than sometimes…NOTE do not walk away from your risotto. A little attention goes a long way). Continue to add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next.
After cooking for 30-35 minutes and you’ve only got about 1/4 of the stock left, begin to taste the faro for doneness. It will continue to get softer and more tender the more liquid it absorbs. It is ready when tender but still chewy at the center. Continue to add stock until preferred doneness. You may not need all the stock or you may need more...depends on taste (and how chewy you do or do not like your farro).
 Before you’ve added the last round of stock, add the cremini mushrooms, thawed peas, and artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Mix in diced grilled chicken is using. Remove the bay leaf and add the cheese, and salt and pepper to taste; stir until cheese melts. Stir in parsley or basil and serve.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Swooning for Wheatberries

It’s official; I’m completely smitten! And the culprit is the almighty wheatberry. What is a wheatberry you may ask? Well, according to Wikipedia, “the term wheatberry or wheat berry refers to the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), comprising the bran, germ, and endosperm.” Sounds….uh, delicious, right? YUP! Absolutely fabulous folks. They are also completely good for you: high in fiber; low fat; high in protein; and heart healthy. When cooked they are chewy and scrumptious and go with darn near anything.

For my first foray into the wheatberry world I did a little research. There is quite a bit of disagreement among cooks on the soak vs. not soak issue. I was lazy and skipped the over night soaking step that some seem to maintain is a requirement and found that soaking was completely and utterly unnecessary! My wheatberries turned out just fine.

For this recipe I was feeling summery and in need of a healthy detox dinner…..i’ve been overindulging in burgers and mac n cheese as of late. Tthis one hit it out of the park!!! Fresh, healthy and absolutely satisfying. The chewy wheatberries paired perfectly with crunchy roasted vegetables and tender shrimp tossed in garlic, lemon and balsamic vinegar. Full of flavor and divine. I can’t stop thinking about this dish and neither will you once you take a stab at the totally amazing wheatberry!