November 1, 2008
farro with chickpeas and butternut squash
This is yet another variation on the squash theme that lately has been a big part of meals at my house. This time I wanted to feature farro, an ancient grain that the Romans ate and the Etruscans before them. It has a nutty flavor that I love. It is said to be closest to spelt here in the U.S. but is really a grain in its own right. They eat a lot of it in Tuscany and Umbria where it was cultivated for thousands of years, sometimes ground into a paste before cooking.
I bought some at the organic farm where we stayed in Tuscany and learned about the special Tuscan heirloom pigs, called Cinta Senese. This beautiful, organic grain--one of the healthiest grains there is --was one of the products they sold at Tenuta di Spannocchia, the rustic, centuries old eco-bed and breakfast near Siena. We toured the organic gardens, watched the huge, striped pigs graze in the open fields, hiked and got lost on the unmarked trails, and ate this amazing farro with butternut squash. I remember it being the best thing we ate there.
So I looked around for recipes trying to recreate this dish and found this one. They make it at The Kitchen, one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Boulder, Colo. It's a simple and straight-forward preparation, like a lot of the classic dishes at The Kitchen, where ingredients sourced locally and seasonally are the focus. It's a recipe that could stand up to endless substiutions and changes. For example, the next time I make it I will leave out the tomatoes. They gave it an acidic quality that it didn't need and masked the delicious flavors of the roasted squash and farro.
Here is the recipe. Take it, tweak it, make it your own. And while you're at it, browse some of The Kitchen's other great recipes for healthy, organic and just plain lovely food.
I wish I was there right now, sitting at the bar, sipping coffee and eating a fresh-baked cannele.