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Risotto Remix: Farro gives a classic Italian dish a whole grain twist

Risotto Remix: Farro gives a classic Italian dish a whole grain twist

Farro Risotto 2 sm text
I’m sure most of you have had or at least heard of risotto before — a creamy, classic Italian dish made with short-grain, arborio rice that’s a veritable blank canvas as it can be made with about a million different accompanying herbs, vegetables, proteins, etc. Well, I’ve recently come upon risotto in a slightly different form and I must admit that I’m quite smitten with it. What’s the difference in the recipe? Farro! Formally known as “farrotto” in Italian, it is made exactly like risotto except that the farro grain replaces the arborio rice. It cooks up just like arborio, creating a tender and creamy risotto-like consistency with a slightly nutty flavor, and, bonus: it has significantly more health benefits.

Farro is a grain that comes from emmer, a species of wheat and has been around since ancient Roman times — it was a staple of the Roman diet and was even used as currency at times. It has been grown in Tuscany for centuries and is always cultivated traditionally, without the use of pesticides. Besides being great because it’s a whole grain, farro’s other health perks include being high in fiber, B vitamins, and both simple and complex carbs.
This grain has quite a tough outer layer, or “hull”, and comes in three different forms: whole (hull intact), semi-pearled (semi-hulled), and pearled (hulled). While the semi-pearled and pearled versions are quicker-cooking, they do not have quite as much fiber and nutrients as the “whole” type of farro because said nutrients are mostly contained in the hull.

As I mentioned above, this super grain can easily be utilized in place of arborio rice for risotto. It cooks up to be creamy, but with a nice al dente bite to it — the farro’s starches are slowly released with the low and slow cooking, with each addition of cooking liquid. Farro can also be used in soups, grain salads, and it makes a great substitute for oatmeal in the morning.

This particular recipe for farrotto, below, is a very versatile vegetarian dish which can easily be made vegan by omitting the butter and cheese, and it also makes a great side dish pairing with beef, chicken, pork or seafood. I kept this particular recipe fairly simple, and it can also double as a good basic recipe for standard arborio rice-based risotto.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, head for the grains or bulk aisle, grab some farro, pick up some onion and herbs, and try this dish on for size. I guarantee that you’ll fall in love with it too.
Farro Risotto 1 sm text
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Say “Opa!” to these Greek lamb sliders in pita pockets

Say “Opa!” to these Greek lamb sliders in pita pockets
Besides being utterly delectable, these Greek lamb sliders are healthy as well.

Besides being utterly delectable, these Greek lamb sliders are healthy as well.

When it comes to burgers, quality meat can make a simple burger great, but flavorful additions can really put it over the top. Herbs and spices mixed into the meat, tasty toppings, quality cheeses and fancy buns can all contribute to make one stellar gourmet burger.

Take, for example, my Greek-inspired sliders. Feta cheese and warming spices add a flavorful kick to the ground lamb, and instead of lettuce and tomato, the red wine vinegar-tossed spinach and onion serve as the topping. And forget the boring standard bun, these Greco masterpieces are sandwiched between fluffy pita bread.

Besides being utterly delectable, they’re actually pretty healthful as well. Lamb meat contains omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids (a.k.a.: the good fats). When grocery shopping, go for pasture-raised New Zealand lamb (or grass-fed beef) as it contains higher levels of these essential fatty acids. For a lightened version of the sliders without sacrificing any of the flavor, simply nix the Feta and the pitas, and either bake or grill them instead of pan frying.

These Greek sliders are perfect for a summer cookout party, a game night in with friends, or even a simple weeknight meal. Not into mini food? The recipe can easily make four full-sized burgers as well. Serve them alongside a Greek salad, some grilled or broiled eggplant, and pair them with a crisp, light Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa or New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry