Delicious!! Seriously, old world grains like emmer and spelt are not just “good-for-you” grains. More and more, these once old world staples are showing up on menus as a gourmet specialty food. And with good reason. They are healthy and offer a gold mine of flavor! This farro and herb salad has plenty of fresh herbs–parsley, cilantro and mint–as well as lemon and ginger to brighten it up while pistachios add crunch and fresh red chili a little spice. So tasty!
What exactly is farro?
In Italy emmer is known as farro and as I have discovered, understanding farro is utterly confusing. Here in Germany I have only been able to find spelt or quick-cooking spelt (called “schnellkochenden Dinkel”). In search of farro, I did a little research and found out that behind the Italian grain “farro” is a group of three different kinds of hulled wheat: spelt, emmer, and einkorn.
Emmer is the most common variety grown in Italy and is what in North America is found under the name farro medio or emmer wheat. It’s considered superior to spelt and einkorn and thus is referred to as the “true” farro. Spelt on the other hand, is more commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and is eaten and used in much the same way as farro, and therefore you might just find it being referred to as farro. There’s farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer) and farro grande (spelt). All of which leads to the confusion. And yes, give anything an Italian sounding name and it instantly has more appeal.
So here in the heart of Hamburg, having only access to farro’s cousin, I used quick-cooking spelt. It is quick because it’s made from polished whole spelt grains, which helps speed up the cooking time to a mere 20-25 minutes. That time easily doubles or triples if you are using regular spelt. Quick-cooking spelt can found in natural food stores (I get mine at Alnatura here in Germany) or online. If time allows you can also use regular spelt or emmer (called zweikorn in German). Spelt gives you a fantastic al dente texture and nutty taste that is perfect for grain salads. You can expect something beyond brown rice; it has a complex taste, and a fabulous chewy texture with undertones of oats and barley. Love it!
Keep in mind, neither spelt or emmer a gluten-free grain; they are after all, a type of wheat. But they are packed with nutrients and are remarkably high in protein and fiber. Just like other whole grains, they a great addition to your diet!
Farro with Herbs and Pistachios
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side dish
1 cup farro or quick-cooking spelt (pearled barley is also a delicious alternative) (200 g)
finely grated lemon zest of 1 organic lemon
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 fresh red chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint leaves
2 tablespoon dried sour cherries (alternatively use organic cranberries, sweetened with apple juice), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, shells removed and coarsely chopped (50 g)
1. Cook farro according to package instructions. Drain if necessary and set aside to cool.
2. Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, honey, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Add the oil and whisk until emulsified; season dressing with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer the farro to a large bowl and add the chile, herbs, dried cherries, and pistachios; toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing, season with more salt and pepper, as desired, and toss to coat. Enjoy!