Raw farro. But just wait… it gets exciting. Seriously.

A couple weekends ago I brunched at one of my favorite french cafés in Nashville. The chef was fresh out of her steel-cut oatmeal, leaving me to forage through the menu for more exotic fare. I ended up stepping way out on the wild side – what other options do you have when the oatmeal is gone? And ordered the Farrosotto. Next to the name in funky script were the listed ingredients: Mushrooms. I’d heard of them. Butternut squash, butter; check, check. But when I came across the word ‘farro’, I had to involve the waitress. She described it as an ancient grain that is similar to barley and spelt, yet has its own distinct rich and nutty flavor. It was calling out to me in a desperate little voice from the menu, Give me a chance! Give me a chance! And a well-deserving chance it got, hence, the following recipe: (please note this a different recipe from the restaurant’s, but great nonetheless. I made if for myself the other night. Would go amazing with salmon). Note: You can find farro at Whole Foods and online. Comment if you can find it at other brick and mortar stores.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus (8-10 depending on thikness)
1 1/2 cups farro (10 ounces)
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups water
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (fresh if possible) 2 teaspoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Slice the asparagus in approximately 1 inch lengths. Slice them diagonally for presentation. Cook the cut asparagus over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until slightly softened (not mushy), about 5 minutes. Add the farro and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat it with the oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring until it is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the water, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until absorbed between additions. The farro is done when it is al dente and suspended in the thick, creamy liquid, about 25 minutes total. If you have a friend who wants to come over and talk, this is a great time for chatting, because there’s little else you can do while stirring.

3. Stir in the yogurt, the cheese and butter and simmer until the risotto has thickened, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and serve. (note: you can use vegetable or chicken broth instead of the water for even more flavor – or use half stock/half water. As well, chopped walnuts taste great in this dish).

4. Serve alongside Salmon and perhaps a side of Broccoli or another green vegetable.

Feel free to comment below if you’ve got any great recipe ideas, especially if you’ve used farro in any other creative ways!