This “cooking from the pantry” dish, spiced farro with garlicky spinach, packs bold flavors.
Somewhat unintentionally, I’ve been creating and eating more vegetarian dishes at home. The “at home” is part of the reason. In Italy, we are still vacillating between covid threat color zones, so in any given week restaurants are closed and have been for some time (although most of the country is just now in a “yellow” zone, so restaurants are starting to re-open with limited hours and only outdoor seating).
While grocery supplies are not scarce, I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking from the pantry. And being a little less active than usual due to travel restrictions, eating heavier meats hasn’t been sitting well with me.
The bold flavor from this farro-based dish comes from French 4-spice. I first learned about and used this spice mix from Canadian chef, Laura Calder, from her show French Food at Home. She uses French 4-spice for a sausage and cabbage dish.
What is French 4-Spice? My version is: 2-parts ground white pepper, 1-part ground nutmeg, 1-part ground ginger, and 3/4-part ground cloves. While it sounds “Christmasy,” it’s not at all. It does have subtle undertones of sweetness from the clove and nutmeg, but the pepper and ginger pull it into the exotic, savory world (think Moroccan and some Indian foods, but not quite). Regardless, this is a hearty, healthy and satisfying dish to add to your repertoire.
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Spiced Farro with Garlicky Spinach
- 1 cup pearled farro (be sure to use “pearled” as it cooks faster)
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 small can diced tomatoes (14 or 15 ounces), including juices
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons French 4-spice (recipe follows)
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 2 packages (10 ounces each, 20 ounces total) frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling on top
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or other chopped nuts of your choice
For the Farro
For the Spinach
- Thaw spinach
- Make French 4-spice by combining 2 tablespoons ground white pepper, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, and 3/4 tablespoon ground cloves (this makes more than you need for this recipe, so you’ll have extra to use in the future)
- Place farro, water or vegetable broth, 1.25 teaspoons of French 4-spice, and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes (start checking the liquid level at 15 minutes. If it has evaporated, add a little more liquid and keep simmering until you reach 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, if you have too much liquid, remove the lid and keep simmering until most of the water is gone. NOTE: Times may vary depending on what type of farro you have
- Add the diced tomatoes to the pot with the farro and stir. Raise heat to medium and with the lid off, simmer until the liquid from the tomatoes is largely absorbed into the farro (about 15-20 minutes.). Stir occasionally to avoid the bottom burning. The texture should be chewy yet tender
- Bring a sauté pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and chopped nuts and let them sauté for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add the thawed spinach to the pan along with the salt and lemon juice. Cook until the spinach is heated through and most of the liquid has evaporated. Do not cook it so much that it loses its vibrant green color
- Place a large serving of the farro in individual bowls and top with the spinach. Drizzle with olive oil and serve