Farro, also known as emmer, is a type of wheat that’s widely cultivated in the Mediterranean, but one we find more and more on the shelves of U.S. grocery stores.
Its popularity is not hard to understand as it’s an extremely satisfying grain, with a nutty flavor and chewy texture. The grain works well on its own, boiled and buttered, or as part of a salad, pilaf or soup.
There is a fair amount of confusion when it comes to the grain itself.
First of all, its name references not only one type, but three. Cookbook author Maria Speck writes in “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” that the term farro is “commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy: farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt).”
Is your head spinning yet? Keeping track is not as hard as it seems since only one — emmer — is most commonly available in the U.S. The grain is available in three forms. The whole-grain option retains all of its nutrients but needs to be soaked overnight before cooking. Semi-pearled has part of the bran removed but still contains some fiber. And finally there’s pearled, which takes the least time to cook and has no bran at all.
Semi-pearled and pearled are both much quicker to cook than the whole-grain farro, but you do sacrifice in terms of nutrition. I typically take the middle road and go with semi-pearled.
Farro is one of those prized ingredients that can be eaten cold or hot, and it holds up well to cooking in advance, which make it the perfect base for this week’s recipe, Mediterranean Chicken, Roasted Vegetables and Farro Bowls.
The bowls start with boneless chicken thighs, marinated in a bright mixture of lemon juice, garlic, herbs and olive oil, which are roasted until just cooked through. While the oven is hot, chunks of sweet potatoes are also roasted with a generous amount of broccolini.
Farro is spooned into a serving bowl and topped with the chicken, roasted veggies, chickpeas, crunchy cucumber, tomatoes, feta and toasted pepitas. The colorful dish is dressed with a tahini-yogurt sauce, spiked with fresh mint.
It may sound like a lot of work, but it comes together fairly quickly and makes enough to serve for as a family dinner, with enough leftovers to pack up for lunches throughout the week. This makes a practical dish for busy cooks who are looking for delicious and nutritious meal options.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.