Thursday, June 5, 2014

Farro with Broccoli & Green Olives

Somehow I found myself with a bit of a glut of local broccoli earlier this week.  Things like this happen during the growing season...with corn, summer squash, tomatoes, it's always nice to have a recipe or two to turn to that will use up masses of these seasonal super-producers.  I don't know about you, but I want to fully enjoy them while they are abundant, fresh and delicious.  The farro pilaf I'm posting today is a perfect way to do just that.  Even if you don't happen to have  a lot of broccoli on hand, this pilaf is so good it makes a great excuse to stock up next time you're at the store or the farmers' market. 

As the dinner hour approached on Monday, I knew I wanted to use up my broccoli.  I was leaning toward the broccoli salad that I posted last spring since I was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients on hand.  As it turned out I didn't, but even so it wasn't really what I was in the mood for.  I was feeling hungrier than usual and a salad just wasn't going to cut it.  I thought about pasta (I always think about pasta), but finally decided I wanted a big bowl of farro instead. 

I had no intention of posting this recipe—in fact, I wasn't even sure exactly what the final dish was going to look like until I finished making it.  And, as is sometimes the case, it was so tasty and satisfying I wanted to share it.  For this reason I don't have any in process pictures to share.  But I have posted enough pilaf/grain salad recipes that any questions about the process can probably be answered by taking a peek at one or two of those.

This pilaf has very few ingredients—it is in fact essentially the same list of ingredients needed to make the aforementioned broccoli salad.  In addition to the farro it includes chickpeas, broccoli, spring onions, olives, and arugula.  I mentioned that I didn't really have everything I needed to make that salad.  When I finally got around to looking at what I did have on hand, I discovered that I only had a small handful of arugula left...and very uncharacteristically for me, I was all out of black olives.  Since I often use arugula as an herb in the spring (where one might use basil in the summer), I decided to coarsely chop what I did have and add it to the pilaf.  Instead of the black olives, I used some delicious garlic-marinated green olives (probably my favorite item on the Whole Foods olive bar—unfortunately I have no idea what variety of olive they are).  At the last minute, I decided the pilaf needed a little sweetness, so I added a handful of golden raisins.  They were just the right touch—not only adding that needed sweetness but interesting texture as well. 

I expected that the pilaf would need some lemon to finish, but it didn't.  The olives were so briny and tangy, no lemon was necessary.  If your olives don't have enough punch, you should have some lemon at the ready.  If you happen to have some preserved lemon, a few pieces—cut in a fine julienne...or minced—would add the right note.  Garlic too (finely minced), would be a good addition if your olives are milder than mine were. 

The pilaf was just want I wanted—a substantial and satisfying meal that incorporated a large quantity of broccoli.  Not only did it make a delicious late spring dinner, the leftovers made a pretty fine lunch the next day.  And since it needs no reheating or final assembly, it would make a great addition to a picnic basket, a boxed lunch or a pot luck dinner.

Leftovers...for lunch, the next day...

Farro with Broccoli & Green Olives

2/3 c. pitted green olives, quartered
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed 
2 T. Olive oil, plus more to finish
1 bunch spring onions—white and some of the green—trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 c. pearled or semi-pearled farro, rinsed
2 c. water
3/4 to 1 lb. broccoli crowns, cut into large florets (stems split so no thicker than 1/3-inch)
a big handful arugula, stemmed and roughly chopped if the leaves are large
salt & pepper, to taste

Place the first three ingredients in a large bowl.  Unless you have very lemony or tangy olives (like I did) add the lemon juice.  Toss to combine and set aside to it a stir occasionally while the farro cooks.

Sweat the onion, along with a pinch of salt, in the olive oil until the onion is tender—about 5 minutes. Add the farro and continue to cook and stir until the farro is well-coated in the fat, lightly toasted and hot through—2 or 3 minutes. Add the water, along with some salt (start with 1/2 t.), and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook, until tender but still firm in the center—about 25 minutes. Let the farro rest, covered, off of the heat for 5 minutes.  When the farro is done, drain off the excess liquid, add to the bowl with the marinated olives and chickpeas.  Toss to combine.  Spread the on a sheet pan to cool. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Salt generously.  Add the broccoli and cook until just tender—it's ok if it still has a bit of crunch.  Drain and spread on kitchen towels to cool.   

Return the farro mixture along with the cooled broccoli and arugula to the bowl and and toss to combine.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  If farro seems dry, drizzle in some olive oil.  If the pilaf seems dull or flat, add a generous squeeze of lemon.  Serves 4 as an entrée. 

  • To make the pilaf into a more substantial meal, serve accompanied by a spoonful of ricotta or labneh...or a wedge of cheese.  
  • To "refresh" any leftovers, toss with a bit of olive oil (to add moisture and sheen) before serving.  Also, it is always a good idea to taste and correct the seasoning (salt and lemon) before serving leftovers since the seasoning tends to become muted as time passes.
  • For an alternate presentation, increase the amount of arugula to 2 large handfuls and don't add to the pilaf.  Instead, dress the arugula separately with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper and a little olive oil.  Arrange the dressed arugula on the plate(s) and mound the farro/broccoli mixture on top.

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