We talked last week about our newfound passion for spelt berries - an ancient grain with a delicious nuttiness and chewy texture. We are substituting it for rice, couscous, and even pasta in some recipes. Here's one improvised recipe that is also a very good example of cooking from the cupboards.
Farotto is a term applied to grain that is cooked like rice risotto, slowly cooked and stirred with liquid in a large sauté pan. We cook spelt berries here with chicken stock and toss them with a healthy helping of artichoke antipasto spread from Trader Joe's. This is a little oily, with plenty of garlic already in it, so we didn't even have to add garlic to this dish. We also added a can of tuna.
Shaved Parmesan and parsley round this out into a dish that is filling, satisfying, but also rather healthy. The flavors matured overnight, too, and this was gone all too quick!
Artichokes and tuna are Mediterranean flavors we have always liked together, and the jarred versions of each are cupboard staples that add a lot of body and flavor to basic dishes like this spelt farotto.
Experiment with other jarred and preserved foods! We might try olives, canned tomatoes, and more parsley in another version of this. It would be wonderful with bits of leftover roast chicken and lemon zest and herbs. Grains like these absorb any flavors you add to them; think of them as a blank canvas for the palette of your cupboards and fresh food from the markets.
Spelt Farotto with Tuna and Artichokes
1 1/2 cups spelt or the red and green pepper spelt mix from Trader Joe's
3 cups chicken broth
8-12 ounces artichoke antipasto or chopped jarred artichokes
1 small can good tuna, packed in oil
Two large handfuls of flat parsley, chopped
About half a cup of shaved Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper
Heat a little olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spelt and cook until slightly toasty and coated in oil - about 2 minutes.
Add the chicken broth, one cup at a time, stirring frequently but not constantly. Add more as it looks dry. The spelt will probably take 30-40 minutes to cook. Just keep an eye on it and make a salad or cut up some vegetables; it doesn't need to be stirred all the time. When the spelt berries are chewy and al dente, and most of the liquid has evaporated, turn the heat to medium high, and add the artichokes and tuna. Cook until heated through.
Add the parsley and cook until wilted, then take off the heat and taste. It won't need much salt, but perhaps a little pepper.
Tip: shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler into bite-sized curls.
Toss with the Parmesan and serve.
(Images: Faith Hopler)