Not that I’m making any resolutions or anything, but this year I’m going to try to use more and different whole grains in my cooking. I’ve pretty much cut out any pasta that isn’t whole wheat. I just think it tastes heartier than its pale counterpart, and it’s definitely more satisfying. I’m going the same way with rice. I’ve used red, green and black rice. They have a more unique flavor and add beautifully deep colors to a dish. So, out with the white, bleached stuff and in with the multi-colored grains.
That said, I’ve been hearing about farro forever, but have never been able to find it at any of my local stores. Farro is an ancient Italian grain, somewhat like barley, that can be used in soups, salads, or in place of rice. I’ve wanted to make a more nutritious risotto for awhile, but was hesitant to use barley in place of arborio rice. I thought it would be too—for lack of a better word—gloopy. I was delighted when I found a pearled farro at Whole Foods this weekend, and immediately snatched it up for some farroto (that would be risotto made with farro).
I had some extra shrimp, so I decided on cornmeal and cayenne crusted shrimp. To keep with the slightly Creole theme, I stirred some Cheddar and Kale into the farro risotto. The farro risotto was as rich and creamy as traditional risotto; I don’t think I’ll be using arborio again anytime soon. It was a very warm, satiating dish and we ate every last grain of the farro (which probably negated all the health benefits).
Cornmeal & Cayenne Crusted Shrimp
1 lb. shrimp, peeled, de-veined with tails off (I usually like the jumbo shrimp, but only had the medium size on hand, so they were a bit small)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 large pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the shrimp in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornmeal, cayenne pepper and salt together. Pour the dry ingredients over the shrimp and toss until they’re fully coated and the cornmeal begins to clump a bit at the bottom of the bowl. Spread the shrimp on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the shrimp are fully cooked and the cornmeal begins to crisp/brown.
Cheddar and Kale Farrato
8 oz. Pearled Farro (Available at Whole Foods, or online)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups chicken or beef stock (warmed up in the microwave)
1 tbsp. butter
2 oz. cheddar cheese (I used Cabot 50% Light)
1-2 large handfuls of Kale, stems removed
Freshly ground pepper to taste (Notice there’s no salt – the stock and cheese have enough)
Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom pot on medium heat. Once it’s warm, add the farro and toast it for 1 – 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Begin adding the stock in 1/4 cup increments, stirring constantly until all liquid is absorbed before adding more stock. Continue this process until you run out of stock, or the farro stops absorbing liquid – about 20 minutes. Taste the farro to ensure that it is tender. Stir in the butter, cheese and kale until the cheese is completely melted and the farro is creamy. You may need to add more stock at this point to loosen the farrato. Serve immediately.