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From Scratch: Take comfort in hearty farro soup
"If I can't pronounce it, I won't eat it." I have heard this more than once from friends and neighbors here in York County. This never seemed to me like good advice for trying new foods.
When I first heard of farro, I went to the Internet to check it out. "Mother of all wheat." "Grain that fed the Roman legions." With pedigrees like that, I couldn't wait to try it out.
Farro is a wheatlike plant, specifically emmer wheat. It is the whole wheat berry that is often sold pearled so it cooks faster. Farro has a complex nutty taste, but for me its biggest virtue is its chewy texture. No matter how much you cook farro, it never turns mushy. It is the perfect ingredient in soups that you plan to freeze.
Farro was trendy a few years ago but has now become mainstream. In fact, on a recent visit to Weis, I found three different kinds available. I chose the Italian pearled farro from Earthly Choice.
Farro and bean soup is the ultimate comfort food for a cold winter's night. It has no "weird" tastes that your family might reject, and the soup is hearty enough that it could be a complete dinner. The rich flavor of the soup comes from a classic mirepoix, an aromatic combination of carrots, celery and onions. For the beans, I like cannellini (white kidney beans), but any white bean is fine. Don't forget to soak them the night before to speed up the cooking time.
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight or for several hours
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup farro
2 cups crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Drain the soaked beans. Put them in a medium-size pot and cover them with water about an inch above the beans. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and cover the pot. Cook about 30 to 45 minutes. Don't drain.
Put the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, celery, carrots and a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Add the farro, cooked beans with their liquid, tomatoes and water.
Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily.
Cook until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, add some more water.
Stir in the parsley and basil and cook another 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with grated cheese.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.