Farro is a whole grain that’s become a usual suspect in my every day cooking. I really like its creamy, barley-like texture and that it cooks in about 20 minutes. I make a risotto with farro along with cannellini beans. My kids usually clean their plates when I make it, so I’m guessing they like it a little.
But the other day I couldn’t find any farro in my kitchen and pulled out a bag of grains that my sister-in-law Liza brought me from a Portland farmer’s market. They came from Ayer’s Creek Farm , a small family farm in Oregon.
The bag was labeled “Frumento – Soft Red Wheat”. I couldn’t find much info after I Googled “frumento” other than it’s Italian for wheat or grain. I decided to treat the grains like wheat berries instead of the imported Italian semi-pearled (semi-pearled makes for quicker cooking) farro that I usually have, which meant I soaked them in a bowl on the counter for a few hours.
I’d planned to roast a few supermarket vine-ripened tomatoes I had on the counter, my go-to method for tuning up their somewhat bland, out-of-season taste, but I forgot to turn on the oven. So I put the whole tomatoes over the gas flame for a few minutes until their skins were black and blistered.
I liked the combo of smoky tomatoes and the full flavor of the cooked frumento; definitely springier to the teeth than farro, but in a good way.
Lia at Nourish Network also has great info and a recipe for wheat berries – and lots of other healthy foods – on her site.
Add some cooked beans like cannellini or chickpeas to the wheat berries for extra protein and nutrition.
1 ½ cups soft wheat berries
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon prepared harissa or red chili flakes
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 or 3 small vine-ripened tomatoes or ¾ cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes
2 big handfuls baby arugula
½ cup fresh whole milk ricotta
- Soak the wheat berries in enough water to cover, either overnight or before you go out for the day.
- Bring 3 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a saucepan; add the drained wheat berries. Simmer for about an hour, or until the wheat berries are plump and al dente when you test one. If they seem too hard, cook up to an additional 15-30 minutes, keeping in mind that when fully cooked they will retain a small bit of “chew”.
- Drain all but a small amount of water (1 or 2 tablespoons) from the wheat berries; put them back in the pan and stir in the garlic, smoked paprika if using, harissa or chili and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- If using fresh tomatoes, char them directly over a gas flame on your stovetop or under a hot broiler, turning them until their skins are blackened and blistered. Chop into rough pieces and add them (or the canned tomatoes) to the wheat berries.
- Transfer the wheat berries to a serving bowl and toss with the arugula; taste and season with salt if needed. Dollop with spoonfuls of ricotta and drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.