Farro & Away

I don’t want to give the impression that things around Chez Wetzel are always complicated, and full of fancy brining techniques, tacos with multiple components, and the like. Sometimes it is, but sometimes things are way simple.

And even though I have a freezer FULL of meat that I fully intend to eat, thanks to my CSA, sometimes we still eat vegetarian, even in this house of avid meat-eaters.

Simple doesn’t have to mean boring, run of the mill food. Simple doesn’t have to mean cereal or spaghetti with Newman’s Own red sauce that’s been in the cupboard for years. Although let’s make this clear as a bell – I will quickly devour either of those dishes and have on many occasion.

But sometimes, I enjoy the promise of a one-dish-meal that allows me to get some protein, some veggies, and to use some fancy ingredients that have been hanging out alongside that store-bought pasta sauce.

Enter tahini and pomegranate molasses – both jars whose contents are used far less often than they should be. The tahini? Sure, I’ve made some hummus with it a time or two, but those ground sesame seeds have more or less just taken up room in the cupboard. And the pomegranate molasses? Let’s just say that I prefer my molasses as plain as day, although this dish almost led me to reconsider.

Here though, a simple-appearing dish of healthy grains dresses up a little bit and for just a moment, it seems fancy.

Fancy, but easier to make than simple syrup. This little dish smells like a trip to an exotic island, it tastes nutty thanks be to the sesame and the toasted farro, and the drizzle of molasses atop the bowl adds a perfect amount of sweetness and tang. The farro is soft, but not too soft, and firm enough that it has a springiness when bitten. To look at it, you’d never expect it to evoke anything really exciting, but it does.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that make it all worth living, not to mention making all those fancy things all the more special.

And with that, we’re off! In fact, we may even be in Oregon by now, speeding down the road with the top down, if it’s warm enough. Hopefully we’ll make a stop for cheese, gorgeous views of the coast, and some Oregon beer. Be sure to hop on the new facebook page, where I’ll try to update our travels from Portland to LAX and everywhere in between.

Toasted Farro w/ Greens & Tahini
Adapted from Kevin Gillespie via Food & Wine; September 2010; serves 2-4

printable version

3/4 cup farro
1 T tahini
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T canola oil
2 packed c spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 c parsley leaves
1/4 c fennel fronds
2 T fresh lemon juice
Pomegranate molasses, for drizzling

In a saucepan, cover the farro with water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderate heat until just tender, 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small sheet pan or bowl. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, until chilled.

In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of water with the tahini and olive oil.

In a skillet, heat the canola oil. Add the farro in an even layer and cook over high heat, stirring once, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and the greens and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the greens are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley, fennel fronds, and the tahini mixture and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt. Transfer the farro to a bowl, drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.


I think I got a little spoiled with being on break from school. We had good, homecooked dinners most weeknights and some days on the weekend. I had time to catch up (rather stay up to date as I had too much time to get behind) on my Food Network shows and not get too behind on my magazine reads. We had free weekends, although I welcome the busy weekends because they’re spent with family and friends. But now school is back in session and already five weeks in.


Matter of fact, school is almost over. Hard to believe, but I’m 5 weeks away from a culinary ‘degree’. I think, after having graduated from 3 colleges, that I’ll call it quits with the schooling. Oh, and the loanage.

With only one weeknight of cooking, and the fact that it’s officially well into summer (finally), I’ve been more inclined to whip up some somewhat simple meals. You know, like panzanella salad. And this here, made with a new delicious friend of mine, farro.

marjoramgreen beans

I’m sure many of you may have never cooked with farro. But you should. It is a great addition to salads or even grilled veggies. A small bag’ll cost you about 8 buckaroonies but you’ll get many uses out of it.

It’s a rich, nutty grain (from Italy – don’t you just love those Italians?!) with many admirable qualities: higher in protein and fiber than many grains, a great source of complex carbohydrates, and supposedly a type of carbohydrate that can aid the body’s immune system. Farro is definitely a keeper and one you can assuredly take home to meet your parents. In fact, when you try it, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life.


I’m sharing a great starter recipe that utilizes a seasonal favorite, green beans. My mom will be so proud to know I eat more than a no thank you serving of beans. This dish reminds me of the panzanella salad – entirely flexible. You’ll notice I used those shredded carrots again. And definitely use marjoram rather than skipping this seldom-used herb. It has a lovely piney perfumey citrus taste and pairs well with the goat cheese. But if you insist, substitute oregano and use a bit less.

farro and veggie salad

Farro & Veggie Salad w/ Goat Cheese
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2009; Serves 4

printable recipe

This is a great weeknight meal. You can even prepare the salad in advance since it’s served cold. And in a pinch, I’m sure a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken would be just fine 🙂

1/2 cup semi-pearled farro
3 T EVOO, divided
8 oz boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
12 oz green beans, trimmed and cut to 1 1/2″ pieces
2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (~2 ears corn)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (~3/4 c)
1/2 c carrot, thinly sliced
1 T minced fresh marjoram
1/2 t kosher salt
2 T white wine vinegar
2 T minced shallot
1 t Dijon mustard
2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Cook farro in medium saucepan of boiling water until just tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain; cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in medium skillet over med-hi. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. You can also grill the chicken, which is what I did for extra flavor. Cool and cut into 1/2″ to 3/4″ cubes. Cook green beans in saucepan of boiling salted water about 4 minutes and drain, rinsing with cold water. Pat dry.

Mix farro, chicken, and green beans in large bowl. Add corn, green onions, carrot.

Combine remaining 2 T oil, marjoram, 1/2 t salt in small bowl. Press w/ back of spoon to release flavor from marjoram. Whisk in vinegar, shallot, mustard. Pour over salad in bowl and toss to coat. Season w/ s&p.