Many grains and rices are making their way to the mainstream American dinner table, including the nutty tasting rice, farro. There has been some controversy over the exact definition of the food farro. Derived from the grains of specific wheat strains, farro is a common dish in Italy, Germany and Switzerland with continuing notoriety across the globe. It seems to be referred to under several different names including spelt, two-grained spelt, starch-wheat, emmer, einkorn, wheatberries and farro piccolo, farro medio or farro grande depending on its size. It looks like a fluffier version of barley and has a grainy, nutty, rice-like texture taste rivaling over processed, nutritionally weak, white rice. It can be used with stews, salads, beans and many other dishes.
Most recipes call for first soaking farro overnight. This does three things: it softens the hull, removes any debris or planting residue and makes for a more tender result. If it is not soaked it can still be cooked and enjoyed however, like most foods, give it a thorough rinsing before cooking. Farro comes divided into three grades. Two of the three are simply different lengths which is a personal choice and not a pre-requisite to any recipe. However, the third grade is cracked farro. It is suggested to buy whole farro and crack it yourself in a coffee grinder to avoid dust and stones often found in the cracked version. If this is not possible, soaking pre-cracked farro helps a lot. If you are not using farro for a while make sure to store it in a sealed glass jar at room temperature.
Stove Top Preparation
In a pot large enough for the amount of people expected to eat, put about two to two and a half cups of salted water per every cup of farro. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer with closed lid for 20 to 40 minutes. Drain if there's any leftover water (this water is nice to add to a a vegetable saute', soup or gravy and can be frozen and reconstituted for this use).
Using a rice cooker to cook farro is possible, but it's not the best practice. For about one cup, add three cups of salted water and it should take approximately fort-five minutes to cook to completion.
Not many use a pressure cooker anymore but if you happen to have one it is a great way to cook farro. Again, try to soak the farro in salt water overnight. Use about 3 cups of water to one cup of farro in the cooker. It only takes about 15 to 20 minutes, and even if you do not soak it, the farro still comes out okay.
Farro cooks well in a long simmering vegetable broth. Simply add the farro to a pot of slow simmering vegetables for several hours. This reduces extra work and results in a mixed farro vegetable dish that is excellent alone or in addition to meats or fish.