Squash and Pomegranates?!

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Farro is one of those grains that is slowly creeping into the restaurant scene. Farro is also underused and often misused. This ancient grain can be used in a multitude of ways and makes a delicious side dish to almost any meal.

I’m going to be totally honest…I headed to the pantry at work looking for arborio rice to make a classic risotto. Turns out I was out of arborio rice and had remembered I bought farro just the other day. I had almost forgotten about this nutty grain entirely!

Turning farro into a risotto is one of my favorite ways to use this delicious morsel. Here’s what I did:

2 cups farro
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups butternut squash, diced & roasted (this is about 1 squash)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

1.) In a large rondeau or pot, saute the onion, garlic & thyme until the onions just start to get some color on them. (about 5 minutes on medium) Add in the farro and continue sauté until the grain start to smell nutty and fragrant.

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2.) Deglaze the pot with white wine. Once the alcohol is cooked out of the wine, while stirring, add in about a cup of the chicken stock at a time. Make sure after each addition the previous amount of stock has been absorbed by the farro. You will start to notice after a few additions of stock and stirring the creaminess the starch from the grain gives off. This is what you want!

3.) Once all the stock is added into the farro; bring the roasted squash, mascarpone, spices & parmesan into pot party! Once these ingredients are mixed in the risotto becomes creamy and rich. Garnish the risotto with the pomegranate seeds. These add a nice textural contrast to the creamy risotto and a touch of acidity and sweetness!

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Trick Alert: I bought my pomegranate seeds already out of the fruit. (I’m lazy…but also the quantity needed would have taken me weeks to get out! For this recipe you will only need about 1 or 2 pomegranates) Sorry for the rant…back to the trick. Cut the fruit in half and over a bowl of cold water with the fruit seed side down, smack the back of the fruit with a spoon until the seeds fall into the water. The seeds will sink and the light flesh will float making for a much easier experience!

you’re welcome…:-)

 

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BLT Barley Risotto?!

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I mean lets be honest anything cooked risotto style is creamy deliciousness! Some of you may not know that “risotto” is actually a technique. The type of starch or grain you use can be varied. Typically, restaurants use arborio or carnarolli rice. These are short grain rices and release the most starch content when constantly stirred. (this process is a true pain in the butt, but so worth it)

My BLT barley risotto takes the classic technique but uses barley instead of the typical rice. Barley is such a great alternative for a few reasons. 1.) Barley still releases starch, 2.) Barley has a great “al dente” texture to it,  and 3.) Barley is really good for you with loads of fiber, protein and amino acids!  While adding bacon to a healthy grain may seem to negate the whole purpose of using something healthy in the first place….I say everything in moderation! :-)

BLT Barley Risotto

3-4 slices thick cut bacon
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used heirloom because I’m clearly fancy haha)
1 leek, thinly sliced and cleaned
1 bag of pearl barley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
Chicken stock (I ended up using 3 quarts)
Mascarpone Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

In a rondeau* Render your bacon down until almost perfectly crispy. (you can either remove the bacon at this stage if you prefer a crispy garnish) I leave my bacon in during the cooking process…Here’s why: the chewy lardons really add a textural contrast :-)

Once the bacon is rendered, add in your leeks and garlic. Let these saute for 5 minutes or until the leeks are wilted. (you may also hear the term translucent…aka just par-cook them a bit first) Add in your barley and stir. Let the barley almost toast for a minute then deglaze the pan with white wine. Let the wine cook off or until you no longer get a harsh alcohol smell from it.  It will look like this:

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Now, this part takes a bit…Gradually work in your chicken stock in 2 cup intervals until the barley absorbs it all. Stir every two minutes to check on it. There is honestly no need to stand there and stir the barley constantly throughout. Once the barley is 99% percent cooked and the most of the liquid is absorbed, add in parmesan cheese and mascarpone cheese. These will attribute to the saltiness and creaminess of the dish. Last thing to do before serving is throw in your halved or whole cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

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*if you don’t have a rondeau or know what the hell it is..it is basically a shallow wide pot with lower sides. I have used large saute pans and even large pots for this. But the wider the service area the better.

Don’t have barley on hand? Try using a longer grain rice or a starchy potato diced small. The cooking times will vary of course! Please guys make this one, you won’t be disappointed!!