Farro

One of the seven original grains cited in the Bible, farro was popular for hundreds of years until modern baking techniques left it behind.  Americans are finding it again and realizing that this savory and tasty grain has many modern uses. Italians not only like to use it in breads but also cakes, pizza and soups. Related to wheat but very different, this grain is friendly to the body, a great source of fiber and naturally contains high levels of nutrients, vitamins and protein.

Farro with Artichokes

Makes 6 servings, about 1 cup each

In this dish farro stands in for rice in a risotto-like dish, full of tomatoes, artichokes and fresh basil.

1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1-15-ounce can, no sodium added, diced tomatoes, drained well
1 9-ounce box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 1/2-2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1. Place farro in a large saucepan and cover with about 2 inches of water. Add sage and rosemary. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the farro is tender but still firm to the bite, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the herbs and drain.
2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the farro, tomatoes, artichokes, basil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.
3. Add 1/2 cup broth (or water), bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring, until most of the broth is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining broth (or water), adding it in 1/2-cup increments and stirring until it’s absorbed and the farro is creamy but still has a bit of bite, about 10 minutes total. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese and lemon zest. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

 Italy‘s Other National Dish-Polenta                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Polenta, a coarsely or finely ground yellow or white cornmeal, has been called by some the “Italian grits” and there are similarities to the hominy grits that are so popular in the southern United States. The key to the popularity of Polenta is its versatility. It can be served with nearly anything and that is why it has spread to every corner of Italy, where Italians always make use of what is locally grown or raised. Soft polenta is often a replacement for bread during a meal, or instead of the pasta course, served with butter and cheese and possibly shaved truffles. Polenta can also be served as a contorno (side dish) to regional meat dishes such as Osso Bucco, chicken and fish. Polenta in cake form can be layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and baked.

Italian Style Braised Pork Chops With Polenta

  • 4 boneless loin pork chops (about 1 inch thick) and trimmed of all fat
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup of sliced white mushrooms
  • 1-15 oz. can of diced tomatoes ( no salt added)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. Dredge chops in flour.

 Heat oil in large skillet with cover. Brown chops on both sides. Add onions, sweet peppers, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano and cover and let simmer for about an hour until tender.

POLENTA

  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 cups of instant polenta
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions
Bring water to a boil and slowly add Polenta. Cook Polenta while whisking constantly for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add oil, cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer Polenta to a lightly oiled 9×13-inch dish, smoothing until flat. Chill in refrigerator 30 minutes or until firm. Cut into 3 “ squares, brush with olive oil and grill, pan-fry, or broil until golden brown on the outside and heated through. Place pork chops and sauce over Polenta squares.

Extra squares of Polenta can be frozen for future meals.

Polenta Squares

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