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A Clever Cooking Method Makes Ancient Grains The Star Of This Mediterranean-Inspired Dish

Emily Paster
Food writer & cookbook author By Emily Paster
Food writer & cookbook author
Emily Paster is the author of three cookbooks, has been featured in Food52 and Eater Chicago, and teaches culinary classes at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
butternut squash and kale farro rissotto
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Farro is nothing more than an ancient form of wheat, which is sometimes also known as emmer. Small but powerful, farro has a nutty flavor and a springy, al dente texture and is exactly the kind of nutritious whole grain that makes Mediterranean food so healthy.

My favorite way to prepare farro is to cook it like risotto by gradually adding warm broth to the toasted grains until they are tender. The grains stay perfectly toothsome and separate, yet the final dish is creamy and deeply comforting, especially on a cold night.

As you might imagine, a farro risotto, or farrotto, can take as long as 45 minutes on the stove—with constant attention required—but an electric pressure cooker streamlines the whole process. You even cook the butternut squash in the pressure cooker for easier cleanup.

Butternut Squash & Kale Farrotto

Serves 2 to 4

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Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • ¾ cup minced shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1½ cups farro perlato
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 3 cups Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth
  • 3 cups chopped kale leaves (woody stems removed)
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. To prepare the squash, cut off the stem and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Cut both pieces in half crosswise, then cut the pieces from the top of the squash—the thicker unscooped part—in half again.
  2. Place the trivet in the electric pressure cooker and add 1½ cups water. Arrange the pieces of squash on the trivet in as close to a single layer as possible. Close the lid and make sure the pressure release valve is closed. Select the Pressure Cook function and set the cooking time to 12 minutes at high pressure.
  3. When the cooking program is complete, release the pressure manually and remove the lid. Remove the squash using tongs and place the pieces on a cutting board until cool enough to handle. Turn off the electric pressure cooker and dump out the water.
  4. Cut or peel off the skin of the squash; it should come off quite easily. Cut half of the squash into cubes and set aside, reserving the remaining squash for another use.
  5. To make the farrotto, add the olive oil to the inner pot. Select the Sauté function and set the heat level to "Less." When the oil is shimmering, after about 2 minutes, add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes more. Season with the salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add the farro and toss to coat with the oil. Toast the farro grains until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the white wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 30 seconds. Press Cancel to turn off the Sauté function. Add the broth to the farro, and stir to combine. Add the cubed squash, close the lid, and make sure the pressure release valve is closed.
  7. Select the Pressure Cook function and set the cooking time to 12 minutes at high pressure. When the cooking program is complete, release the pressure manually and remove the lid. Turn off the electric pressure cooker and then select the Sauté function and set the heat level to "Less."
  8. Add the chopped kale and grated cheese, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and black pepper as needed. Sauté, stirring, until most of the remaining liquid has been absorbed or has evaporated. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.
  9. Spoon the farrotto into shallow pasta bowls. Drizzle olive oil over each bowl and pass more grated cheese at the table. Serve immediately.

Excerpted from Instantly Mediterranean by Emily Paster with permission from the publisher, Tiller Press. Copyright © 2021 by Emily Paster.

 

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