Farro Pilaf with Mushrooms, White Beans and Kale
A nutty farro pilaf that's loaded with sautéed mushrooms, creamy white beans and silky massaged kale. Savory and satisfying. This dish is an easy, yet impressive, weeknight dinner that makes a great lunch the next day! Vegan option. <jump to recipe>
This dish gets me really excited because it's easily one of my favorite weeknight meals. There's nothing like finishing up a day at work, knowing that an awesome homemade dinner is just around the corner. Better yet, this dish gets even tastier overnight! A great dinner and an even better lunch the next day– what more could you ask for?
Thanks to the farro, this dish has more "heft" than a standard salad. The combination of grains, beans and rice provides a source of complete protein – no meat required. And since the transitional fall weather has been a mixed bag these days, you'll be happy to know this dish is great enjoyed warm or cold. If the list of add-ins seems daunting – trust me, it's not nearly as difficult as it may seem. This farro pilaf is all about minimal effort for a whole lot of flavor. I'll walk you through it step by step, and before the farro's cooked, you'll have everything else ready to go. Convinced? OK, let's do this.
Hold up, what's farro? Farro, or more specifically emmer wheat, is an ancient grain. It's been making its way back onto restaurant menus over the years, but it isn't nearly used as much as it should be. I only learned about farro a couple years ago, but once I tasted its nutty notes and its satisfying chew (think al dente pasta), I was hooked! Farro has higher fiber and protein content compared to other strains of wheat – about 2x in many cases. And, because it has a lower gluten content than other wheat varieties, those with mild wheat sensitivities often find this grain easier to digest. But, it does still contain gluten, so anyone with celiac disease should still steer clear.
The nutritional content of farro depends on what type you're buying. Farro comes in three forms: whole, semi-pearled and pearled. Similar to the processing of barley and other grains, semi-pearled and pearled varieties have been processed to remove some of the outer husk of the grain. While it does reduce cooking time, unfortunately it also strips away some of the fiber and nutrients along with it. If you can get your hands on whole farro, go that route. But remember that it should be soaked overnight to speed up cooking time. If you're in a pinch, the next best option is the semi-pearled kind. It cooks much faster, even without soaking - and is a step-up (nutrition-wise) compared to pearled. In my experience, semi-pearled farro tends to be the most widely available. And since I often forget to soak whole farro the night before, we typically end up using semi-pearled for this recipe. Unfortunately, many labels aren't clear when it comes to the type of farro inside the package, so a good trick is to check the recommended cooking times. Whole farro takes around 45-60 minutes, semi-pearled around 30-40 minutes, and pearled will cook even faster.
To start this dish, you'll want to get the farro simmering away – it's what takes the longest. While that simmers, you can prep all the other ingredients. Massaged kale is just my fancy term for kale leaves rubbed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. The simple dressing helps transform the kale into silky, flavorful bites. And because kale is pretty sturdy to start with, it'll get softer (but not soggy) if you keep leftovers for a day or two. The only other cooking you'll need to do is giving the mushrooms a quick sauté in a pan with garlic. There's no demanding timing magic required with these, because they don't need to be kept piping hot before serving. Since the 'shrooms will be done before the farro, just let them hang out on the pan until you're ready to assemble. I use shiitake mushrooms for this recipe, but if you're partial to another mushroom variety, feel free to mix it up.
Sundried tomatoes and white beans add extra layers of flavor with minimal work. To save time, use already hydrated sundried tomatoes (like those packed in oil). And, I use canned white beans in this dish because, well, I don't have usually the time or foresight to soak and cook dry beans on a weeknight. Sorry.
You'll know the farro is cooked when most of the water is absorbed. It should taste pleasantly toothy and chewy, but if it's hard, it still needs more time. Once cooked, strain the farro and keep any remaining stock. The reserved stock helps keep the dish moist, and brings all the flavors together. Garnish and enjoy. Make sure to save some for the next day – it makes a killer lunch!
FARRO PILAF WITH MUSHROOMS, WHITE BEANS AND KALE
SERVES 6 (vegan option)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed)
3 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup farro (semi-pearled)*
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups kale leaves
1 teaspoon neutral oil (or sub olive oil)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced (rough stems removed)
1 can of white beans (19 oz / 540 g), rinsed
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped**
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (packed in oil), sliced into strips
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
Chili flakes, to taste
1/3 cup feta, crumbled (optional)
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of neutral oil, minced shallots and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Rinse semi-pearled farro well under water, strain, then add to the pot. Give it a quick stir to coat the farro in the shallot / garlic mixture. Add vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the farro is al dente (30-40 minutes). If the pot boils dry at any point, add more stock.
In the meantime, start prepping your other ingredients. Wash and dry the kale. Pick off the leaves and slice them into thin pieces. In a large serving bowl, combine kale, lemon juice and oil. Massage the kale leaves with your hands to ensure the kale pieces are well covered with lemon juice and oil. Set aside.
In a frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil, chopped garlic and shiitake mushrooms over medium heat. Cook mushrooms until lightly browned. This should take 5-7 minutes.
When the farro is cooked, strain the remaining stock into a bowl. Reserve the remaining liquid for final assembly. Add the farro to the bowl of massaged kale. Then add in mushrooms, white beans, almonds, sundried tomatoes, salt and chopped parsley. Pour in enough reserved stock to moisten the dish to your liking - up to ~1/2 cup. Stir to combine. Add black pepper and chili flakes to taste. Top with crumbled feta cheese, if using. Dish can be served hot or cold.
-*You could substitute for whole farro or pearled farro. However, their cooking times will vary, so be sure to refer to the recommended cooking times on the package.
-**You can use raw or toasted almonds, whichever you prefer. To toast your own almonds, put them on a baking sheet and bake at 325°F for approximately 12 minutes. Stir half way and remove from oven when lightly brown and fragrant.