Thursday, December 30, 2010

Creamy Tomato Basil Farro Risotto

It was dark outside, 5 o'clock, and I stood at the stove making a tomato farro risotto. I added the extra-virgin olive oil in the hot pot, and the chopped 1/2 white onion. I stirred it and peeled the garlic cloves. On my IPod, propped on the kitchen counter and a JBL speaker system, Frances Mayes read from her book "Everyday in Tuscany", an audiobook I have been listening to for a few days now whenever I do something in the kitchen. The onions were still white, nevertheless I grated the small garlic cloves into the pot and stirred, wondering if I added them too early and they would burn before the onions were translucent. Frances Mayes ".....even that I added the cold olive oil, the garlic browned so fast that I sometimes have to start again." I smiled. I added the measured farro into the pot with the onions and garlic and oil and stirred to toast it. Frances Mayes ".... I added the farro to the onions, and garlic and carrots and parseley and it would have all afternoon for the flavors to come together in the salad". I smiled again, feeling slightly eerie.  Frances went on to describe the building of her new pizza oven in the garden and the pizzas they made, 30 pizzas for friends at a garden party. And I finished making the creamy tomato basil risotto. I almost felt like being there, in the garden in Tuscany.

Makes 1-2 servings:
1/4 cup farro
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion
1-2 large garlic cloves, grated (microplaned!)
1/4 cup white wine (red would be good, too!)
1/2 can no-salt added tomatoes (I like the Wholefoods brand)
handful of cherry tomatoes (or 1-2 roma tomatoes)
1/2 cup of un-flavored almond milk
1 ts Rapunzel vegetable bouillon
handful fresh or frozen basil

Pour the canned and fresh tomatoes and the almond milk in a food processor, and puree. Add it to a microwave safe container, and heat on high for 2min. Add the bouillon to it, and stir.

In a pot, add the olive oil, heat and add the chopped onion. Stir and heat through until they are translucent. Now, add the grated garlic, and stir gently. Cook until fragrant but the garlic is still on the white side (it gets bitter once it turns dark). Now, add the farro, and toast for 1-2 min, stir continuously. Add the white wine, stir, and simmer until all the wine is evaporated. Add 1/4 cup of the tomato mix at a time, and also add the basil  at this point (*). Slowly simmer on medium-low for 25 min (altogether), adding regularly 1/4 cup of tomato liquid at a time, and  simmer, until the farros is cooked and creamy, and the risotto thick (you might not need all the liquid). If non-vegan, grate in some parmesan cheese, if vegan just serve with some black pepper!

(*)Note: Typically, I grow a bunch of basil in the summer, often more than I can use. A good trick to preserve it is to cut the leaves off the stems, chiffonade the (roll 5-6 leaves like a cigar, and finely slice), and put it into ice cube containers. Basically you stuff the ice cube compartments with sliced basil. Add some water to each compartment so that it is filled, and freeze the tray. Once frozen you can store the individual basil cubes in a ziplock back in the freezer. --- It makes for a great addition to pasta sauces in the winter without needing to live in Florida or pay an arm and a leg for it.

Insalata Di Farro (by Frances Mayes)
Farro Salad
Farro is sometimes translated as spelt but is actually its own distinctive grain. Tuscans love it with chickpeas in a rousing winter soup. In summer, faro salad is an inspired choice for lunches because it is easy, abundant, and tasty. Leftover faro salad keeps in the fridge for 3 or 4 days and is handy for wraps or to serve in radicchio leaves on an antipasto platter. Serves 10

2 cups faro
4 tomatoes, chopped, or ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
2 or 3 ribs celery, chopped
½ cup green olives, cut in half if they’re large
2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ to ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Follow the directions on the package of faro. Usually it cooks in less than 2 hours. While the faro is cooking, mix the other ingredients together. Drain the faro and add it to the vegetable mixture, correct the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

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