Thursday, March 26, 2009


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                 Farro Minestrone with Squash and Greens

We're heading for Vancouver tomorrow, for a much-needed little holiday (4 days only). We'll stay with my cousin Chris and his partner Roxanne, and spend time with my sister, Karin, my youngest daughter and youngest grandson, an old friend of DH's, and perhaps another cousin of mine, Charo, from my Peruvian father's side of the family. I'll report on the restaurants!

Before I go and pack, I want to leave you with a delicious Italian soup recipe. Instead of pasta or rice, this soup contains a grain, farro. Farro was a mainstay of Tuscan cuisine for centuries. In recent decades, farro was replaced, for the most part, by easier-to-grow-and- harvest varieties of common wheat. But farro is making a comeback! It features in the dishes of upscale restaurants from coast to coast.

Farro and its cousins emmer and einkorn are known as 'hulled wheats'. This means that the berry or kernel retains its hull or husk during harvest and must be dehulled prior to further processing.

In North America, this fine grain is known as Spelt. While there are occasional descriptions of spelt as not 'true' farro, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, via its report on Underutilized Mediterranean Species states that 'the only registered varieties of farro belong to T. spelta or spelt."

From the Random House Dictionary: "Farro-- This is a type of hard wheat known as 'spelt' in English. It has been grown and used in Italy since Roman times and is now mostly grown in Lazio, Umbria and Abruzzo. A famous wedding soup of these regions is called 'Confarrotio'."

There is some confusion about what farro actually is. Some will argue vehemently that farro is NOT spelt! But here is a quote from the above-mentioned report, "Farro in Italy": "It is very difficult to make the distinction between the three different farros (einkorn, emmer and spelt) as particularly the term spelt and farro are often used as synonyms. As mentioned above einkorn (T. monococcum) is the least cultivated form of farro in Italy. The Italian Ministry of Agriculture estimates the cultivation of spelt (T. spelta) and emmer (T. dicoccon) to be 500 and 2000 hectares respectively."

It goes on: "In Italy, as in other European countries, all three farro species have experienced a comeback in the past few decades. While in Germany and Switzerland the primary species of farro produced is spelt (Dinkel, used for making bread, biscuits or pasta), in Italy emmer has the biggest surface. In Italy since the early 1980's, emmer has seen a return in various regions within the centre of Italy, as the healthy properties of this cereal attract consumers. Emmer contains high levels of fibre and it is cultivated traditionally, without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Why had it survived there? Not because the farmers deliberately set out to conserve genetic resources, but because farro, handed down from antiquity, offered something modern wheats could not in the steep mountain fields: a reliable harvest.

Farro is particularly spread in the Apennines central-southern areas and concerns prevailingly organic cultivations. This species, indeed, is characterized by a high agronomical and environmental adaptability and these features permit it, more than other cereals, to cope with weeds and to exploit as well as possible marginal and poor soils escaping any fertilizing action. The spread concerns both areas where emmer is “traditional” and areas where it has been recently introduced. While in the traditional areas emmer growing has never been abundoned and landraces have been maintained, in the new areas emmer varieties are imported either from the traditional areas or from recent plant breeding programs. This situation creates an intense market competition that causes loss of competitiveness of traditional areas, favours the replacement of traditional genetic material, doesn’t guarantee the product traceability and makes weaker the local production phases (Porfiri, 2006). One option to cope with this challenge is the establishment of geografical identification labels with clear production regulations (see chapter about Farro della Garfagnana). Todays main production areas of emmer are: Garfagnana, Valneriana and Altopiano die Leonessa, alte Valli del Tronto and dell’ Aterno, valle dell’Aniene, alto Molise, Appennino Dauno and Appennino Lucano (Falcinelli, 2006)."

Okay-- you're yawning! Sorry-- I like to know these things. What they basically are saying is that all three of those grain varieties, emmer, spelt and einkorn can be called farro. You can use whichever you like or can find. The soup is hearty and delicious!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 8

This is a delicious soup to make with leftover beans. It's from my book, The Fiber for Life Cookbook.

1/2 cup whole spelt or farro kernels
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon roasted (Asian) sesame oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery with leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups (or 2/ 15-oz. cans) cooked pinto, barlotti, Romano, Great Northern, cannellini, or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
5 cups good vegetarian broth
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cup cleaned, peeled and cubed winter squash
2 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed (unpeeled) and diced
4 cups cleaned, trimmed and sliced greens (kale, Swiss chard, collards, turnip greens, etc.)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or crumbled sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme or rosemary
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling on top
1 tablespoon soy "bacon" bits
vegan Parmesan substitute (such as GoVeggie!)

Bring the spelt or farro kernels to a boil in a medium covered saucepan in water to cover (the water should be about 1" above the grains), for 40-90 minutes, or until the kernels are tender. (Add more water if it seems to be evaporating too fast.) Set aside.

In a heavy soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and stir-fry until the onion starts to soften, adding a tiny bit of water now and then to keep the mixture from sticking. Add the cooked spelt or farro (and any liquid left in the pot) and the remaining ingredients, including optional soy "bacon" (except salt and pepper, and vegan parmesan). Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Taste for salt and pepper and serve with the olive oil and/or soy Parmesan to sprinkle on top.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving):
323.0 calories; 12% calories from fat; 4.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 582.2mg sodium; 1606.7mg potassium; 59.0g carbohydrates; 12.5g fiber; 4.8g sugar; 46.5g net carbs; 17.2g protein; 6.0 points.



MeloMeals said...

Thank you for researching this! I spent a while trying to figure this out.. I actually debated very much with someone because I was pretty sure that Spelt was Farrow, but could not find much to back me up..

so thank you! I remember as kid eating farrow porridge for breakfast.. and I got some spelt berries and cooked them and was like.. OH yeah.. this is what I used to eat..

jocelyn said...

try the radha eatery. it's quite yummy :)

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

I've been there, Jocelyn! It's very good!

aimee said...

Thanks for this recipe, Bryanna! I have a pound or so of "spelt berries" that I've been wondering what to do with! Now I know! Do you know if this soup will freeze well? thanks!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Aimee, I think this soup should freeze quite well.

Kelly said...

I wish I had seen this before I went to my favorite gourmet grocery yesterday. I thought about getting farro but hate buying ingredients without a plan because then they tend to sit. That looks delicious though!

Linda said...

Bryanna, I want to try this soup. I couldn't find farro, but I have had it before and know it will lend a particular flavor and texture, so if I try a different grain, do you think it would be worth it? Or should I hold off on it for now?

Which grain or grains would you suggest as a sub or even one for a good variation.

Thanks! It looks delish :)

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Linda, in a pinch, you could just use whole wheat kernels, or spelt or kamut!