April 25, 2013 by Meg G.
Sometimes it feels like all I talk about is the weather. (Annnnnd now I’m talking about talking about the weather. Great.) But when you are committed to cooking as locally and seasonally as possible, you live at the mercy of Mother Earth and her cycle of seasons. So, when armies of tightly bound asparagus start outnumbering stray beets and parsnips, it’s a sure sign of spring. Hallelujah!
If you’ve made risotto before, you know that it’s a super versatile dish. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can make all kinds of adjustments. You can use whatever veggies are in season, swap out the herbs and seasoning, and even try different grains. Here, farro stands in for the more typical arborio rice, providing not only added nutrition, but also a bit more texture. The original recipe included kabocha squash, but having been through a long winter, I couldn’t bring myself to include it. Instead, asparagus plays the lead role, with its loyal co-star, lemon. Here goes!
Asparagus Farrotto – adapted from Liana Krissoff’s Whole Grains for a New Generation
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 leek, white and light green parts, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/4 cups raw farro
- 1/2 cup white wine
- about 3-4 cups well seasoned vegetable stock (preferably homemade – see here or here for easy recipes)
- 1 large bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), tough ends snapped off, cut into 1-inch pieces
- coarsely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (preferably organic)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put your stock into a saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over low heat. Keep a ladle nearby.
- In a large, deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly browned, about 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and faro and cook, stirring, for about two minutes.
- Stir in the wine and cook for 1 minute, until mostly absorbed.
- Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the farro and should be bubbling, but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed.
- Add another ladleful or two of the stock, and continue to cook in this fashion, stirring in more stock when the farro is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but you should stir often.
- After 10-12 minutes, stir in the asparagus, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Continue adding stock and stirring. When the farro is tender all the way through but still chewy, it is done. I cooked it for about another 8 minutes after the asparagus was added, for a total of about 20 minutes. Just be sure not to cook it for too long, so the asparagus stays nice and crisp.
- Taste now and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. If the farrotto is too soupy, increase the heat to high and boil until some of the liquid is evaporated. Serve right away.
I definitely needed to boil off some of the excess liquid. I also found that the farro did not become nearly as creamy as an arborio risotto. That’s most likely because farro is not quite as starchy as rice, but it’s also possible that my technique was imperfect (Me? Never!). I followed Liana’s recipe in terms of the ingredients, but since I did not include squash, I didn’t follow her suggestion regarding how and when to add the stock. Instead, I basically followed the directions from this risotto recipe. After it cooled for a while, the farrotto did firm up and become a bit creamier.
The flavor, however, was fantastic! Who needs creamy when you’ve got lemony asparagus layered with earthy, toothsome farro, and sautéed leeks? I confess that I added just a touch of freshly grated parmesan cheese, but it was completely unnecessary.