Ok, I’ll admit it. I have little tolerance for random grains and their idiosyncrasies. How long to soak, how long to cook, taste, chewiness, ancient or modern, sprouted or stripped. I’ve. No. Patience. For. This.
Which is why I’ve been in a quinoa rut. It cooks fast and as a dreamy complete protein, it fulfills all my vegetarian desires. It it more than adequate to use as a filling base and allowing me to create a flavorful tableau around it. But, my friends, there is such a thing as too much quinoa. This was made obvious to me when I saw that I had 3 quinoa bowl posts in my Drafts folder here. It was time to branch out. But who would take me? Wheat berries? Millet? Amaranth? Barley? Bulgur? Kamut!? These all sounded like characters in The Hunger Games.
Enter two saviors.
1) Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro The bag held a perfect “dinner for two” amount and, well it only took 10 minutes to cook. It is pretty healthy, with fiber and protein etc etc etc.
2) Ashley Rodriguez’s Caramelized Fennel and Farro Salad from her inspiring and gorgeous blog, Not Without Salt. I’ve been consuming my fair share of fennel recently, but the crunchy raw version. Reading the title of that dish gave me the confidence to tackle this unknown grain since I knew the sweet sweet taste of seared fennel would be on my side. With it, I could conquer anything.
Starting with some ideas from Ashley’s recipe, I veered off into my own territory. The result? A light, chewy, savory/sweet bowl of grains with some extras thrown in. Some bitter greens and radish matchsticks with a light dose of creamy goat cheese melded quite nicely together. It was only improved by crunchy breadcrumbs and zingy lemon zest to brighten everything up.
Farro and Fennel Bowl
Make a pot of farro using vegetable broth. I used a bag of Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro, which was hella awesome. While the farro cooks, heat up a pan with a healthy coating of olive oil. Smash and slice 4-6 large garlic cloves. Once the oil is hot, add about a tbsp of fennel seeds and the smashed garlic. Stir and keep a careful eye. Once the garlic gets just barely brown and toasty, take them out and add the smashed cloves to a a big bowl where you’ll assemble the entire dish. While the garlic cooks, roughly dice 2 fennel bulbs. Using the same pan as the finished garlic, add a tbsp of butter to the oil/fennel seeds. Once it foams, add chopped fennel and a light sprinkling of sugar all over. Stir and let caramelize. This will take about 10 minutes or so. Salt halfway through.
Once it is done, drain and rinse the farro in cold water to stop cooking. You want it to be chewy but not tough or goopy. Add the farro to the bowl alongside the crispy garlic cloves. Drizzle a nice, flavorful olive oil all over and salt. Stir up. When ready to serve, add a handful or two of arugula and some thinly sliced radishes to the farro bowl. Add the caramelized fennel when it is done and top with a some goat cheese. If you so choose, toast some breadcrumbs to sprinkle over everything. When plating, add some small fresh mint leaves and lemon zest at the very top.