Every time a child says, "I don't believe in fairies," there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.
James Matthew Barrie, Peter Pan

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

in search of ancient grains

I certainly feel something rustic and good about preparing ancient grains for my children. I try to buy the ancient grain bread whenever I see it, I even love to say ancient grains - as if that in itself makes it more wholesome, more healthful. They are of course very healthy and good for you as all whole grains are. Tonight I cooked Farro for the first time. They say Farro is the original grain from which all others derive, and fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years; somewhat more recently it was the standard ration of the Roman Legions that expanded throughout the Western World. Ground into a paste and cooked, it was also the primary ingredient in puls, the polenta eaten for centuries by the Roman poor. Important as it was, however, it was difficult to work and produced low yields. In the centuries following the fall of the Empire, higher-yielding grains were developed and farro's cultivation dwindled: By the turn of the century in Italy there were a few hundred acres of fields scattered over the regions of Lazio, Umbria, the Marches and Tuscany. Farro would probably still be an extremely local specialty had the farmers of the French Haute Savoie not begun to supply it to elegant restaurants that used it in hearty vegetable soups and other dishes. Their success sparked renewed interest in farro among gastronomes, and now the grain is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in Italy as well, especially among trendy health-conscious cooks.
I will probably look for a recipe for the next time I cook it, but as for tonight I boiled it in salted water until tender, added some garlic, a little butter, olive oil, and oregano et voila. The children loved it, as did I. It has a nutty taste and it kind of pops in your mouth as you eat it, it holds its shape and is not smooshy at all, I think it would be equally great in a salad, as it would in a risotto dish. Glad to add another grain option to our diets - brown rice gets old after a while!

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