Thursday, May 07, 2009

Finding spring's first asparagus and farro

It's funny how when you're cooking every night, it just happens and comes together easily. You have an easy sense of what should be on the menu, or how much effort you might be willing to put in. But then, just as easily, you get out of the routine and — poof — it's gone. Or at least, that's how it's been with me. Maybe it's inspiration, maybe it's habit… I'm not sure. But anyway, I haven't cooked a whole lot in the last two weeks because of my schedule and am having a hard time getting back into the swing of things.

I did find a wee bit of inspiration last night at Arbor Farms Market — fresh asparagus picked yesterday morning from Palmyra, Michigan. You can see how fresh it is looking at the tightly closed tips and fresh, roughly picked ends — none of those dried out clean cut ends you usually find in grocery store asparagus. As I was making dinner, I kept nibbling bits of it raw — so good! I had forgotten how good real spring asparagus is.

I decided to make a recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking: Farro with Green Onion Sauce, Toasted Walnuts and Asparagus. I've been wanting to try this recipe for ages since I had never tasted farro. I was just over at Heidi's terrifically healthy and yummy blog, 101 Cookbooks, and am certainly starting to feel more inspired (top of my list: Yogurt Tartlets and Monica Bhide's Chile Pea Puffs. Who needs dinner when you can have an appetizer and dessert, right?!).

Farro with Green Onion Sauce, Toasted Walnuts and Asparagus
from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking
The recipe serves four and since we were having it as a side dish with chicken, I halved the recipe. I'm including Heidi's version for four here.

2 cups farro, picked over and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 Tb olive oil
12 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut on a sharp diagonal into 1-inch pieces
Grated zest of one lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts
Creme fraiche, for garnish (optional)
Freshly grated Parm cheese, for garnish
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Combine farro and stock in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until farro is tender, 45 minutes to an hour. (Note: I used semi-pearled farro which, as Heidi notes, cooks in about half that time.)

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over med-high heat, add chopped green onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until they start to soften. Stir in couple pinches of salt. Puree briefly in food processor, but don't go overboard — you want chunky bits of greenery in there. (This part was so easy and yummy, I could have done full recipe and eaten it all!)

When the farro is nearly cooked, stir in asparagus. Let pot simmer for another couple of minutes, until the asparagus is bright green. Some stock will still be visible in pot. It will continue to be absorbed when you take it off the heat. Stir in lemon zest, walnuts and 1/ tsp salt. (
I toasted the walnuts whole in a skillet. Next time, I think I would chop first and get them nice and toasty in the oven for a fuller, toastier taste.)

Ladle into bowls and garnish. (I skipped the creme fraiche. But I love adding all the garnishes — it's like composing a painting on the plate, or in the bowl as the case may be.)

The lighting in our kitchen makes for some interesting color shifts, but here is an idea of what it looked like! Delicious!


  1. Anonymous2:12 PM

    what's Farro?
    your pal Gloria

  2. Hey G,
    It's a nutty grain a little similar to barley. Trying to branch out a bit…

  3. I've never tried farro - I'll have to try and find it. It looks yummy!