Farro is the new pharaoh of ancient grains.
The nutty grain has a storied history—Egyptian kings and Roman legions are said to have eaten it, and it’s been a staple of Italian food for centuries. Now, it’s showing up on every trendy farm-to-table menu in New York, and top chefs are bowing to its culinary powers.
“I love the texture of the grain, and the fact that it keeps for up to a week,” says Ryan Hardy, executive chef at the eclectic Italian- and Hip Hop-influenced eatery Charlie Bird in the West Village. Plus, “there’s something very cool about farro that caught on two thousand years ago in Rome, where it was prized for increasing stamina in the bedroom.”
Okay, so we can’t totally verify that claim. But Manhattan RD Amy Shapiro says “it does contain many of the same nutrients as other ‘aphrodisiac’ foods such as potassium, magnesium, zinc.” (Try it?)
There’s plenty of other good nutrition news: The complex carb is full of fiber and is high in protein (about the same amount as quinoa). “It provides many vitamins and minerals including vitamin B3, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc…and lots of antioxidants,” says Shapiro. It is a form of wheat, so it’s not for the gluten-averse (although its ancient structure doesn’t contain the problematic “super gluten” in modern wheat).
Ready to eat like a (frisky) Egyptian? Here are three healthy, delicious downtown dishes made with farro to try this spring.
Farro Salad with Pistachio, Favas, Mint, and Parmigiano
Charlie Bird, West Village, www.charliebirdnyc.com
Hardy’s take on farro is hearty (yup), rich, and mouth-watering. It comes with fresh vegetables, olive oil, and herbs and is one of the best takes on the grain we’ve ever tasted. (The recipe is online, here, if you’d rather dine in.)
Farro & Artichoke Salad
Telepan Local, Tribeca, www.telepanlocal.com
Bill Telepan serves this simple dish at his new downtown eatery, at lunch only. It’s not complex but is flavorful and fresh, with zesty arugula, and white beans for texture (and added protein).
Farro Salad with Roasted Asparagus, English Peas, and Pickled Onion
Louro, West Village, www.louronyc.com
Spring’s bounty is on full display in Chef David Santos’ salad made with asparagus and peas, and a vinaigrette made with garlic confit lends it seriously savory flavor. —Lisa Elaine Held