Sometimes, the best recipes happen when you gather ingredients that you already have on hand. When I made dinner Saturday night, little did I know that this farro bowl would be the kind of dish I will be for sure making over and over again.
It all started with wanting to use some of the last tomatoes from the garden and pair them with farro that I had brought recently from Florence (where farro is king), asparagus, roasted butternut squash, and from a trip to the farmers market, basil and mini eggplants. Craving a bit of seafood too, I decided to add roasted shrimp and also avocados that were perfectly ready (I don't think I can have a meal without them).
So on a fall night where I didn't have any intention to blog, this farro, shrimp and butternut squash bowl was born. If you haven't tried farro, you are in for a treat. An ancient grain that's used in Italy, especially in Tuscany, finds its way into salads, soups, farroto (a rissoto like dish) and even desserts.
Because Farro contains a starch, similar to Arborio rice, it behaves much like risotto, releasing a creamy, binding liquid when cooked. But unlike risotto, farro doesn't become gummy; instead, it retains its tender distinct bite, even if it sits a while after cooking.
While spending a few days in Florence, a friend suggested to try an old-school restaurant, known for its authentic Tuscan fare. The first thing that caught my eye was a farro and tomato salad with pesto, that as a good cheese lover, I proceeded to add a heaping tablespoon of freshly grated parmiggiano. The dish was simple, but absolutely memorable. The chewiness of the grain, the sweetness of the tomatoes, and the best pesto I've tried. Since then, farro has become one of my favourite ingredients, and this my friends, is why I love travel so very much. To be able to visit a city and find my way into markets where I can spend hours smelling spices, trying different fruits and cheeses (truffle cheese people !!!!) is undeniably a constant source of inspiration for the way I cook at home.
So welcome fall, I'm ready to spend evenings in my kitchen, baking, cooking up a storm, and playing with different ingredients, that will bring meals like these to share with you on the blog.
2 cups of farro
6 cups of water
1 heaping tbsp sea salt
1 small butternut squash - cut in small cubes
3 medium size tomatoes - chopped
10-12 asparagus spears
4 mini eggplants - sliced in half
1/2 Cup chopped basil
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 chopped green onions ( green and white parts)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
800 grams raw peeled shrimp
2 garlic cloves (1 chopped and 1 pressed)
1/2 olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/ 2 tsp salt
1/ 2 tsp black cracked pepper
2 medium avocados - sliced
Preheat oven at 400 F.
In a big pot, bring water to boil. Add 1 heaping tbsp of salt and add farro. Set temperature to medium- low and cook for about 25 minutes until tender. Drain excess water and place farro in a bowl.
Chop tomatoes in cubes and season with salt and pepper, 3 tbsp of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add chopped green onions to the bowl and set aside.
Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place chopped squash and eggplants in one, and add a pinch of salt and pepper, plus 2 tbsp of olive oil (from the 1/2 cup marked in the ingredients list)
On the second baking sheet, place shrimp, the juice of one lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 chopped garlic clove, a pinch of salt and pepper.
Take both trays to the oven and roast (or bake) for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes and changing the trays from one rack to the other, at 10 minutes. Add asparagus to the vegetable tray, for the last 5 minutes.
When the vegetables and shrimp are ready, add them to the farro, along with the herbs, the juice of 1 lemon, the rest of the olive oil, and the pressed garlic clove, plus the tomato mix. Give it a good stir, and be ready to have one of my favourite bowls to date.
Enjoy warm or cold, and top with avocado.