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Spelt/Farro


mrbigjas
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first of all, just to clarify i don't mean making spelt pasta or bread or anything for gluten-sensitive folks. i'm just talking about cooking the grain itself, for eating.

i've done some web searches for it, but i'm coming up kinda short. i bought some spelt last week in my continuing efforts to make stuff i haven't made before, and i'm missing some essential step in cooking it.

for instance, take a look at the thread on brunch at lacroix, here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=40300

about halfway down the page in percyn's post, he has a couple pictures of the spelt dish that lacroix is serving with the fricasee of chicken and escargot.

a couple of years ago i had a great side dish or appetizer of farro at an italian restaurant--i later found out that farro and spelt are the same thing.

so anyway, on the websites i've found, i can't seem to get a definitive answer. some say to soak it overnight, but then don't mention how to cook it. is it like beans, where if you soak it overnight it's basically ready to use but can handle more cooking to give it flavor? is it like beans, where if you cook it for a couple of hours it'll tenderize itself?

i just don't have a lot of experience with whole grains like this, and any help would be appreciated. it's not that i can't experiment; it's just that having a concept of it to start with would be good.

thanks y'all.

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On Paula Wolfert's website, she has a recipe for Creamy Farro and Chickpea Soup which calls for farro "rinsed, then soaked in water overnight." It's then drained and added to the soup which cooks another hour. Perhaps she will chime in here with further information.

Elsewhere I found the instruction to soak for 12 hours before incorporating into stews.

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thanks, memesuze. at about.com i also found some more information, including this recipe:

http://italianfood.about.com/od/legumesand...a/r/blr0004.htm

which looks pretty similar to paula's recipe except with a different kind of beans, and kale, which is one of my favorite things in the world.

i'm getting the impression that it's soak, then cook.

edited to say that i'm also discovering that farro and spelt are actually different things, with different results when cooked. i'll have to research what i have here--i'm pretty sure it's spelt.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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edited to say that i'm also discovering that farro and spelt are actually different things, with different results when cooked.  i'll have to research what i have here--i'm pretty sure it's spelt.

I've always heard different stories about this, so I asked the guy at the farro stand at the farmer's market, and he told me that there are two different things called 'spelt,' and one of them is the same as farro. I have my little bag of farro I bought from him, and on the back it says that farro, emmer, and Triticum dicoccum are all the same thing, and that the other kind of spelt is a later development, derived from farro/emmer.

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I've always heard different stories about this, so I asked the guy at the farro stand at the farmer's market, and he told me that there are two different things called 'spelt,' and one of them is the same as farro.  I have my little bag of farro I bought from him, and on the back it says that farro, emmer, and Triticum dicoccum are all the same thing, and that the other kind of spelt is a later development, derived from farro/emmer.

Correct.

But they cook similarly. Spelt works for farrotto recipes (as do "wheat berries"). You may have to adjust the timing a hair.

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There are several different types of farro. The most common form I have seen is Triticum dicoccum, which isn't spelt. Although, Triticum dicoccum is both farro medio and emmer wheat, they aren't exactly the same thing although very similar. Farro medio/emmer was common in Italy, until it was replaces by durum type wheats (these have better gluten levels = development of pasta).

Anyway farro medio is delicious and is great used as a base for salads.

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There are several different types of herefarro. The most common form I have seen is Triticum dicoccum, which isn't spelt. Although, Triticum dicoccum is both farro medio and emmer wheat, they aren't exactly the same thing although very similar. Farro medio/emmer was common in Italy, until it was replaces by durum type wheats (these have better gluten levels = development of pasta).

Anyway farro medio is delicious and is great used as a base for salads.

Too much information:

This question is complicated because the terminology is unstable in english, italian, and latin. The three types of farro represent different stages of the evolution of modern wheat.

T. monococcum (=piccolo farro = "einkorn"), the most "primitive," is diploid.

T. dicoccum a.k.a. T. turgidum subsp. dicoccum (=farro medio = emmer) is tetraploid (i.e., the offspring of T. monococcum and a wild relative with a different genome).

T. spelta a.k.a. T. aestivum var. spelta (=gran farro = spelt) is hexaploid (i.e., emmer plus a third genome from a different wild grass).

T. monococcum is very rare, but the other two are grown on a small scale around the Mediterrranean, often in the same fields. So what you get when you buy "farro," though probably mostly T. dicoccum, may have some -- or even be -- T. spelta. It is also possible, as Adam suggests, that there is some durum (T. durum, tetraploid) in the mix.

I can see almost no difference between the "wheat berries" and the "spelt" that I have bought at health food stores and Italian "farro semiperlato." The latter tastes a little more complex, rustic (I think), but this is likely a result of processing or even growing techniques. All three behave similarly in salad and farrotto.

This picture (and the links collected here) may help clarify the genetic relationships.

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Interesting, wheat genetics isn't my field, but from what I understand the picture is even more complex in that although einkorn is often cited as an ancestor of more modern grains, it may infact not be a direct ancestor, more of a sibling to an unidentified ancestor. Also there seem to be both wild and domesticated forms of emmer and einkorn, and these seem to have different scientific names, so I am at a loss in terms of the various relationships.

Anway, my interest in farro was after eating it and finding it to be excellent, I read that it was one of the main grains of the romans, but I have no information on what farro it was that they ate.

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You can cook farro bunches of ways -- just like other grains.

I've had good luck with...

Cooking it like risotto -- a nuttier, chewier, but feels so healty version.

Soaking and adding to soup like you would barley.

Cook like you would pasta, but in way too much liquid (stock, etc.). Let cool in the liquid and drain. Serve re-warmed or cold.

Yummy and healthy! In these times of "eat more fiber" farro is a welcome addition to my diet!

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well i know y'all are fascinated with what i ended up doing. i'm not that used to cooking whole grains so i decided to treat it kind of like beans.

kind of.

anyway, i put some in a pot with a bunch of water and brought it to a boil, and then put a lid on and let it sit off the heat for about an hour or 1:15 or so.

at that point several of the grains had kind of opened up, but the majority of it was chewy and not inedible.

so then after draining it i cut up some slab bacon into lardons, cooked, drained most of the fat, put some shallot in there, and when it was soft, i put the spelt in and added some chicken stock, thyme and some fenugreek. then i let it simmer for probably another hour. i was checking it along the way in case it became too soft or started to disintegrate or something--i wasn't sure what was going to happen.

anyway, it didn't fall apart or get much softer, so as dinnertime neared i turned up the heat and then added a few handfuls of baby spinach to wilt into it, and simmered off most of the liquid.

the result was, if i do say so myself, freaking delicious. we had roasted chicken and sugar snap peas with it, but this could easily have been a meal in itself.

edited to say actually it was a little too salty for my taste--when i initially boiled it i used salted water for the same reason that i always have with beans, and that combined with the bacon probably pushed it over the edge. note to self: grains take less salt than beans.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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  • 2 months later...

I picked up some whole spelt (farro intero, triticum dicoccum; Rustichella d'Abruzzo brand), which includes a risotto-like recipe on the package -- except that it requires soaking for two hours before adding to the soffritto. Quantities are two litres of broth to half a kilo of farro (no other quantities are specified -- it's a basic combo of onion, butter, Parmigiano, and porcini).

I take it this is "farrotto".

Anyway, before I go ahead and try this (and I may also try something like mrbigjas' shallot and lardon recipe, which is very much like a barley-based favourite of mine), I was just wondering if anyone had any tips for handling this particular Rustichella product.

I'm also wondering about Farrotto more generally -- is it usual to stick to a simple porcini/parmigiano recipe, or should I consider that more of a starting point?

TIA!

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While I can't speak to that product specifically, I want to toss out an idea that I got from epicurious a while back - a cold farro salad. It's like any other grain-based salad, but chewier. The recipe I tried included parmesan, favas, cherry tomatoes, arugula, EVOO, and red wine vinegar. It was delicious and has become a summer picnic standard for me.

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The rustichella farro is the only one I'm familiar with and I have made the recipe on the back.

I thought it was great and earthy.

I think farro works just like barley or wheat berries. Salads, soups, risotto, a filling for cabbage rolls, cooking it with dried mushrooms or morels - which are out soon. Just don't forget fresh slices of parmigiano. Experiment and use your imagination is your best bet.

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The rustichella farro is the only one I'm familiar with and I have made the recipe on the back.

I thought it was great and earthy.

I think farro works  just like barley or wheat berries. Salads, soups, risotto, a filling for cabbage rolls, cooking it with dried mushrooms or morels - which are out soon. Just don't forget fresh slices of parmigiano. Experiment and use your imagination is your best bet.

Thanks, shelora. Do you happen to remember what wine you used in the farrotto and/or served as an accompaniment? BTW, I've seen morels for sale recently, but they might have been dried. I didn't give them a second look because they were so expensive; I think I'll stick with dried porcinis for the moment.

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I had an amazing farro with mushroom ragu at Lupa a couple of months ago. The preparation was described by the staff as akin to risotto. The farro tasted as if it had been at least partially cooked in a mushroom broth and there was a bit of that broth with chunks of porcini and other mushroom. Very rich in flavors. Certainly it is more of a cold weather dish but it might be worth experimenting next winter.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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"Do you happen to remember what wine you used in the farrotto and/or served as an accompaniment?"

Dear Mr. Fagioli,

You know, I tend to recall the dish I made, very rarely the wine involved. There is always wine involved, but other than the fact that it was red, I have no idea.

Still waiting on morels, but those dried porcinis are fabulous, at any time of year. Don't forget to use the soaking liquid, strained of course.

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  • 2 months later...

I found this thread searching on "farro" because I was getting ready to make Roasted Beet Farrotto from the Babbo cookbook and after re-reading it x 3, I still can't figure out why I would have an ice bath prepared.

Has anyone seen an errata list for this Batali book? All I can guess is that you want to stop the farro from cooking after the boiling part but since you drain it and immediately put it into a saute pan with chicken stock, I'm not entirely certain that's the case.

The recipe I refer to is on page 203. It's very un-Mario-like to err so maybe it's obvious but I'm not a farro veteran...or else Mario's enjoying a campari and laughing at the thought of us setting up an ice bath for no apparent reason;-)

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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  • 1 month later...

PSA on cooking times: If your farro is "semiperlato," it only needs to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

I've been getting "wheatberries" for the last couple months, which really need to boil for almost an hour, but last week I got some more farro (Umbrian, I forget the brand), and turned it into something resembling oatmeal because I didn't read the label. Not bad, actually, but not the firm texture you want for a salad.

The whole spelt I have found also takes a long time to cook. Have not noted a dramatic difference in flavor between the 3 in unscientific testing.

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PSA on cooking times: If your farro is "semiperlato," it only needs to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

I've been getting "wheatberries" for the last couple months, which really need to boil for almost an hour, but last week I got some more farro (Umbrian, I forget the brand), and turned it into something resembling oatmeal because I didn't read the label. Not bad, actually, but not the firm texture you want for a salad.

The whole spelt I have found also takes a long time to cook. Have not noted a dramatic difference in flavor between the 3 in unscientific testing.

Ditto on that, badthings. The Italian farro I purchased (it's gone and I don't have the label) took only about 20 minutes to cook and was absolutely delicious. The spelt I have seems to take hours to cook and still has more of a "bite" than I'd like.

Check out our Fooddoings and more at A View from Eastmoreland
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I live in Italy and buy my farro from the garfagnano region where it has recieved a IGP classification.. PROTECTED foods...

I parboil mine is salted water for about 15 minutes, just until they start to explode.

I can then throw them into a soup or make a salad.

There is a great recipe on my site for Cicchi, an umbrian recipe with garbonzo beans and black truffles..

Try it you'll LOVE it!

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