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Video: Farro is the new side dish

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    >>> pans *

    >>> this morning in "today's kitchen," our hot chef is cooking something tasty. put away the rice, forget the potatoes. farro is the new side dish that will tempt your family with its earthy, sweet flavor . chef marco canora is author of the great new cookbook "salt to taste." marco, good to see you again.

    >> hi, al. good to be here.

    >> this bad boy , farro, is like everything old is new again. this has been around forever.

    >> exactly. 1900 b.c.

    >> wow.

    >> it's a very, very old grain.

    >> why do you like it?

    >> well, i like it because it's texture, its flavor . it's very nutty, very sweet.

    >> what would you use it in place of?

    >> well, we have rice up here because you can treat it exactly like arborio rice .

    >> like a risotto?

    >> exactly, and it's starchy and creamy and very nice.

    >> ferotto, wasn't he one of the marks brothers?

    >> you could also make a winter salad with it, which is in the book.

    >> okay.

    >> so, a few things to know, first, you get the fat out of the pancetta to flavor it. then you add your vegetables. it's nice to keep the core on the onion because you're going to have to fish these vegetables out.

    >> so it makes it easier.

    >> yeah. you have the carrot, celery and onion. keep it large, create a lot of surface area so you extract flavor . i like to add thyme. you get that in there, let it cook for 10 or 15 minutes and it will look like this.

    >> so it comes out like that.

    >> notice the carmelization in there? a lot of flavor . so, what you want to do is pour that in there.

    >> so we pour the farro.

    >> an important part of this is to coat the farro in all the flavor and oil in there with the vegetables.

    >> the fat.

    >> the fat. the fat is the flavor . the herbs are in there.

    >> probably best to keep the farro in the pot.

    >> exactly.

    >> yeah.

    >> and then you're going to cover it with water. in about 20 minutes , it should be done. and for this, al, it's a room-temperature salad, and it's important to know, too, that you want to cool it in the liquid.

    >> does it come up to a boil?

    >> yeah. you bring it to a boil, turn it to a simmer.

    >> right.

    >> 20 minutes later you strain it, but reserve the liquid.

    >> oh, keep the liquid.

    >> you want it to cool in the liquid, so it stays nice and moist.

    >> let's come back here.

    >> so, i do two versions of this at the restaurant. this is the winter version with leeks, carrots, thyme, some balsamic vinegar . in the summer, it's really great with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion .

    >> and we didn't mention the restaurant. what's the restaurant?

    >> hearth restaurant in the east village downtown. so, you know, in the winter i like balsamic and hardier flavors. in the summer we lighten it up with red wine vinegar , cucumber, tomato.

    >> so it's a very versatile dish.

    >> very versatile dish. i like to season it with thyme for the herb, but rosemary or sage or parsley or basil, all of those things work really well. a good extra virgin olive oil . it's good to note, too, that this is not in the wheat family, american wheat. so it's very low in gluten.

    >> i was going to say. so if you're trying to avoid gluten?

    >> exactly. super low, easy to digest. it's a good alternative for people with psiliac. balsamic vinegar .

    >> what did you bring over here?

    >> so, a second winter salad also in the book, romaine hearts with a vinaigrette. the bacon fat mets the gorgonzola and makes a nice dressing.

    >> there's a theme here. let's toss this big boy up.

    >> exactly. so yeah, people don't think of winter as a time for salads, and i kind of disagree, and there's a lot of options.

    >> if you want, can you serve this a little warm?

    >> in the book. you could absolutely serve it warm. you could heat it up with some stock and make a ferotto out of it.

    >> throw little on there. give that a try. oh, yeah.

    >> you should also, don't miss that, because bacon gorgonzola --

    >> there you go.

    >> it's pretty delicious.

    >> marco, thank you. the book "salt to taste."

    >> good to be here, al.

    >> thanks so much. we'll be back in a moment.

    >>> i decided i love farro.

    >> yes.

    >> this is delicious!

    >> and so does hoda and

TODAY recipes
updated 10/20/2009 10:46:49 AM ET 2009-10-20T14:46:49

Recipe: Winter farro salad

Seasonal cooking is about using ingredients when they’re available, and it’s also about reacting to the way you feel at different times during the year. Both this salad and the one that follows use ingredients that are available year-round. Yet I tend to make this salad in the winter and the other in the summer. Why? This winter salad is sweeter and more robust. It goes well with hearty, deeply flavored dishes — serve it with grilled quail during the cold weather. My summer farro salad is a brighter, somewhat more acidic dish, perfect for a light dinner on a hot summer night.

Ingredients
  • Farro
  • 2 cups farro
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small stalk of celery
  • Water
  • Winter farro salad
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced leek
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 cups cooked farro (see above)
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • About 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
Preparation

Farro
To make about 5 cups of cooked farro, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Chop, then add 1 small onion, 1 small carrot, and 1 small stalk of celery. Season with salt and pepper and stir the vegetables to coat them with the oil. Cover the pot and lower the heat. Cook the vegetables until they soften, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of farro. Stir to coat it with the oil and vegetable juices. Add enough water to cover by about 1⁄2 inch. Raise the heat and bring the water to a boil, then adjust the heat so the farro simmers. Cook the farro until it is tender, about 20 minutes, adding more water if the pot looks dry. Remove and discard the aromatic vegetables. Serve warm as you would rice or at room temperature.

Winter farro salad
Blanch the carrot and leek in a large pot of heavily salted water, cooking just until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water. Combine the carrot, leek, thyme, and farro in a bowl. Dress with the oil and vinegar to taste. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serving Size

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe: Romaine, butternut squash, smoked bacon and Gorgonzola cheese

Ingredients
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 pound thick-sliced bacon
  • 4 hearts of romaine lettuce
  • 4 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • About 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Put the squash in a bowl with the oil and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Mix to coat and then transfer the squash to a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Allow the squash to cool to room temperature.

While the squash cools, cut the bacon into short strips about as wide as the bacon slices are thick — lardons. Put them in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes. Set aside in the pan.

Put the squash in a large mixing bowl. Tear the lettuce into manageable pieces. Add the lettuce to the bowl with the squash. Tilt the salad bowl and, using a fork, smear the Gorgonzola onto the exposed side of the bowl (toward the bottom). Season the lettuce and squash with salt and pepper and sprinkle with vinegar. With the bowl tilted, pour the warm bacon fat with the lardons over the cheese. Let the salad sit for a minute or so.

Using your hands, toss the salad to mix the lettuce and squash with the melty cheese. Keep at it until all the cheese is incorporated. Adjust the seasoning if necessary with salt, pepper, and vinegar and serve.

Tips

If you see crispy white frisee lettuce, use it instead of the romaine. Both stand up nicely to the rich dressing, but frisee adds an interesting texture and bitter edge.

Serving Size

Serves 4 to 6

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