Farro with Spinach, Lemon, Basil, and Pine Nuts

October 4, 2013 5:00 am

Dana of Foodie Goes Healthy is an experienced home cook on a quest for recipes that are both healthy and tasty. She blogs about recipes that she makes for family dinners and get-togethers with friends. She loves cooking with her kids, going on adventures at farmers markets, and sharing good food with others. You can also find her on PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Google Plus.

This is a guest post for October Unprocessed. If this is your first time here, welcome! …and it’s not too late to join in!

Farro with Spinach, Basil, Lemon, and Pine nuts

I have been “going unprocessed” in stages over time. I didn’t plan out the steps, but looking back I can see that I made healthy changes in increments. I recommend focusing on one area at a time. Here’s how it worked for me:

Two years ago I subscribed to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) produce box. Every week I got a delivery of farm-fresh produce. At first I felt inundated with more vegetables than I knew what to do with. Since I didn’t want to let the good food go to waste, I got busy cooking. I had to find new recipes to cook vegetables that were unfamiliar to me. I embraced the challenge like an Iron Chef with a secret ingredient. The flavorful, fresh produce tasted so good that simple recipes came out well. Some cooking attempts didn’t turn out, but overall, we added many delicious vegetable dishes to our family dinner repertoire. Now I shop at a local farmers’ market to get my farm-fresh produce.

Dana's CSA Box

Last year I took the October Unprocessed challenge and started reading grocery labels carefully. Reading the additives article on Eating Rules really helped me understand the ingredients on labels. I learned that most unfamiliar words are processed ingredients, but not all of them have to be taboo. Understanding the labels better helped me to make better choices in the market. For example, I discovered that the chicken broth that I was buying had added sugar in it. The solution was simple– I just switched to another brand. Once I found my new brands and liked their taste, I was all set. Just make sure you allow for extra time in the market if you are in an extensive label reading phase.

This year I am making many diet changes at once as I shift to a low cholesterol diet. I have to say that it’s been hard for me to make so many big changes at once. I have to remind myself that change can be hard and that it is a process that happens over time. I’m out of my cooking repertoire. Thus, preparing meals is taking longer, and some of the food doesn’t taste great. I feel pressure when my family is sitting at the dinner table waiting to eat. Sometimes they don’t understand why I can’t cook what I usually cook. Other times they are excited about new, successful dishes. So just know that if you are struggling, sometimes I am too. I may get disappointed or frustrated, but I won’t be deterred for long. I keep trying to cook in new healthy ways. I’m determined to find more food that is healthy and amazingly tasty. Yes, the dishes must taste sensational. I have been wading through the dull food that just won’t cut it for a foodie like me. My repertoire of great unprocessed, healthy food keeps building. I share these recipes on my blog Foodie Goes Healthy.

Today I am sharing one of my successful unprocessed, healthy recipes: Farro with Spinach, Basil, Lemon, and Pine Nuts. This dish can be made as a vegan or vegetarian main dish or as a side dish. This recipe comprises all the best Italian flavors in a bowl. It’s even “kid-approved.”

Farrow with Spinach, Basil, Lemon, and Pine Nuts

These simple ingredients combine to create a satisfying, tasty dish.

For this dish I have been experimenting with several different ancient whole grains. Suffice it to say that I haven’t mastered kamut or spelt yet, but the one thing I can say is definitely pre-soak kamut and spelt overnight. Don’t believe a package instruction that says there is a “no-soak” method for whole grain kamut and spelt. The winning grains in my house for this recipe are whole grain farro, pearled farro (some of the outer bran is removed), and whole wheat orzo pasta. If you haven’t eaten farro before, it’s a whole grain that has a slightly nutty flavor and a chewy texture similar to barley. It works as a substitute for pasta or rice in many dishes. I love that the whole grain farro doesn’t need to be soaked overnight; it just cooks a little longer. Ironically, my farro package didn’t include “no-soak” instructions for whole grain farro, so I’ve included instructions below.

5.0 from 1 reviews
How To Cook Whole Grain Farro
Author: 
Recipe Type: Grain
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 
Cook Time: 
Total Time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
No soaking necessary.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole grain farro (l used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (I used Pacific organic low-sodium) or water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (omit if stock is salty)
Instructions
  1. Follow package instructions to cook the farro, or use these no-soak instructions:
  2. Put the whole grain farro, stock, and salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce flame to low. Cook for 40-45 minutes or until the farro is tender but not mushy. For pearled farro, the cooking time is approximately 25 minutes.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Farro With Spinach, Lemon, Basil, and Pine Nuts
Author: 
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/vegan main dish or side dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 
Cook Time: 
Total Time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
My recipe is inspired by an orzo dish in Cooking With Too Hot Tamales by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. I like to cook farro and beans when I have more time over the weekend and store them for later use in multiple dishes during the week. This recipe comes together quickly on a weeknight if the farro and beans are made ahead. This hearty dish can be made earlier in the day and then reheated.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ small onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch of baby spinach, wash and leave wet (about 5 oz.)
  • Several grinds of black pepper
  • A few pinches of kosher salt
  • 1-1/3 cups cooked farro (made from 1 cup of raw farro)
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • Zest from ½ of a small lemon
  • 1 cup cooked white beans (optional) Note that home-cooked flavorful beans will taste best, but canned beans can be substituted.
  • 6 large basil leaves, julienned
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more, until the onions are translucent.
  2. Then add the spinach with the water still clinging to the leaves. Sauté until the spinach is wilted and just tender, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the spinach with a large pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
  3. Next add the cooked farro, pine nuts, lemon zest, and cooked beans (optional) to the pan. Stir to combine, and warm up all the ingredients on the stove stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the basil and parmesan cheese (optional). Taste for seasoning: add a few pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Also, taste for balance of flavors, and add a little more zest or basil if preferred. Serve warm.

If you just bought a big bag of farro and wonder what else you can make with it, here are some ideas:

16 Comments on "Farro with Spinach, Lemon, Basil, and Pine Nuts"
  1. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

    This is absolutely a fantastic recipe. I can’t wait to make it.

  2. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2013 at 9:43 am
    Tina says:

    It sounds delicious, but is farro gluten free? I tried googling but it didn’t say, though it doesn’t sound like it is?
    Would this be a main dish or a side dish?
    Thanks ~ Tina

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2013 at 10:00 am
      Andrew says:

      Hi Tina!

      Farro is not gluten-free – it’s an “ancient” form of wheat.

      I’d bet Sorghum or Quinoa would be delicious, gluten-free substitutions, though!

      And this could be either a main or a side, whatever you prefer. :)

  3. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I am loving the recipes that are coming everyday and this one is no exception. I love farro and this recipe has my name all over it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. .
    October 4, 2013 at 10:36 am

    […] to be a guest writer for October Unprocessed on my friend Andrew Wilder’s healthy eating blog Eating Rules. This year over 10,000 people have pledged to eat unprocessed food for the month of October. To me […]

  5. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2013 at 10:52 am
    Sharon Tiano says:

    What about the Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro? Would that be acceptable or is it a ‘processed’ food?
    This looks so delish and I love farro so I am anxious to try it.

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Sharon- great question. From a taste standpoint, I personally don’t think that the TJ “10 minute” grains have as good a texture as a cooked whole grain. From a convenience standpoint: if you want your whole grain farro to cook up in 10 minutes, just soak them overnight in the refrigerator (as per the Bob’s Red Mill package directions). I’ll let Andrew and the nutritionists explain the science and unprocessed part of your question. PS- hope you enjoy this recipe.

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm
      Andrew says:

      I’m pretty sure – though not certain – that all they do is partly cook the 10-minute farro, and then dry it back out. If that’s the case, it would pass the kitchen test! Maybe next time you’re at TJ’s, ask them!

  6. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2013 at 4:05 pm
    Terri says:

    What other kind of nuts do you think would work? Pine nuts are way too expensive. I tried pistachios in pesto but they were too salty. Walnuts or almonds?

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Terri, I have 3 suggestions for you: 1. Yes, I think you can use slivered almonds. 2. You can leave the nuts out. 3. Maybe you can find better priced pine nuts in the bulk section of a market or at Trader Joe’s.

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm
      Jill says:

      Terri, did you used salted pistachios? I’ve just recently discovered unsalted pistachios and they are delicious in pesto.

  7. Comment left on:
    October 5, 2013 at 5:07 am
    Terri says:

    I wasn’t able to find unsalted pistachios here in town but I’ll keep looking and try again. Thanks for sharing.

    • Comment left on:
      October 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm
      Sandy says:

      We take peanuts as a “driving snack” on the 200-mile trips frequently required in our business; they keep my husband awake better than coffee (well, as an adjunct to coffee . ..) and I’ve found that you can reduce the too-salty flavor significantly by rubbing the salt off with paper towels. (I discovered this out of necessity; the only “unsalted” peanuts at our regular grocery store, one week, were “dry-roasted” which meant that, for reasons incomprehensible to me, they contained several junk-food elements and preservatives.) Place a paper towel on a plate, pour in a handful of peanuts, and place another paper towel over the peanuts. Put your hand flat on top of the upper paper towel, and roll the peanuts around for 15-20 seconds.
      This might help reduce the saltiness of your pistachios, too.

  8. Comment left on:
    October 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm
    Terri says:

    This is delicious! I used feta cheese instead of parmesan and slivered almonds instead of pine nuts. I’m going to enjoy my lunches this week. Thanks for the recipe and the introduction to farro.

    • Comment left on:
      October 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Terri- thanks for coming back to let me know that you enjoyed the recipe. I love your idea of using feta in this recipe. That’s the beauty of a recipe like this– you can personalize it to your preferences or to what you have on hand. I’m happy you have lunches waiting in the refrigerator– what a great feeling.

  9. Comment left on:
    October 15, 2013 at 6:37 am
    Shana says:

    Great recipe! I made some substitutions- used millet rather than farro and some chard in place of the spinach, since I already had some. Turned out fantastic.

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