Food, fuel, and feeling good, part 2: Farro

As the season transitions into autumn, my go-to meals transition as well. Lighter fare is replaced with comfort food; slow cooked and hearty. Farro fits perfectly into this fiber-filled matrix.

Farro is more closely related to spelt and durum than to barley, but barley is what one might be more familiar with in fall- and winter-based cooking. You can use farro in recipes that might call for barley, and achieve a similar result. (Soups! Stews! Mmm!)

What’s so good about farro? Farro is rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E. Fiber, of course, lowers the rate that sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream. Foods high in fiber keep your blood glucose levels from rising too fast. And of course, fiber keeps you regular. (I read one sentence on a website that described fiber as a “scrub brush for the colon”; perhaps going a little too far, but in an entirely understandable way.)

I came across farro because I am addicted to grocery stores. I was at Jungle Jim’s up in Cincinnati, OH, and as I meandered in the Italian foods section I saw a bag of pearled farro. (Pearled, and semi-pearled, remove the hull of the grain to make it easier to cook – this also, alas, removes some of the fiber.) I was curious, bought the bag, and figured out how to cook it when I got home.

With pearled farro, you can just rinse it off and add it directly to the meal you are cooking, with enough liquid for it to absorb. I like to use end of season zucchini and crookneck squash along with some beef (vegetarians could eliminate or substitute tempeh for the meat). If you can find semi-pearled farro, all the better; it’ll mean more fiber for you.

Beef, Zucchini, and Squash Simmer

  • 1 medium size zucchini
  • 1 medium size crookneck (yellow) squash
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • Garlic powder or chopped garlic
  • Cubed beef
  • 1 1/2 cups pearled or semi-pearled farro
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef or vegetable stock (can substitute bouillon as needed)

Rinse and drain farro. In a large pan, or medium pot, add diced onions and saute with oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic or garlic powder, rinsed farro, and beef (or tempeh) and saute over medium heat. Add stock, reduce heat to low, and cover. (Remember you can always add more stock, so just add as much as you think you need.)

When the farro seems tender but still a little firm (maybe 15-20 minutes), add diced squash and zucchini. (I don’t like super mushy zucchini and squash, so I will add it in after the farro has had some time to cook. They also are quite watery, so you can cook uncovered after that point.)

When the meat is cooked and the farro is tender, it’s ready to eat. (Check on it within 30 minutes of putting on to cook.)

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