Farrotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Beets

You know, I could just call this Farro with Shiitake Mushrooms and Beets, but Farrotto sounds much more fun.  Farrotto?  Yes, if you switch out the rice from risotto with farro, then you end up with farrotto,  a grain steeped in stock – minus the requirement for non-stop stirring. Another difference from rice based risotto, is that farro has a pleasingly chewy texture, never succumbing to mushiness. Each nutty whole wheat grain maintains its shape,  exuding earthy wholesomeness. You can’t help feeling healthy when you eat it.

Farro has an ancient pedigree, originating in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Also known as emmer, and compared to spelt, farro is a species of wheat, high in fiber and rich in protein and B vitamins. It’s delicious in salads, pilafs, breads, soups and stews. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It’s healthy, economical and delicious.

Farrotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Yellow Beets

Active Time: about 1 hour
Total Time: about 1 hour
Serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Sea salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 cup semi-pearled farro, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock (or mushroom stock for vegetarian version)
1 medium yellow beet, about 8 ounces, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese or feta, optional

1. Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, lightly season with salt, and cook until they begin to soften and release their juices, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the farro and cook until slightly toasted, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed. Add the stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer until the farro is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 30 to 40 minutes.
2. While the farro is cooking, heat the oven to 400°F. Toss the beets, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Spread on a small rimmed baking sheet or in a baking pan and roast in the oven until the beets are tender and golden brown in spots, about 20 minutes.
3. When the farro is ready, stir in the beets, parsley, and black pepper. Serve garnished with additional parsley and crumbled fresh goat cheese, if using.

Grilled Steak with Rosemary, Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic Scapes

Steak Shitake

This morning, in honor of Mother’s Day, we went to the farmers market with the satisfying intention of purchasing ingredients for our dinner. Beautiful New York strip steaks were on display and immediately went into our basket. Asparagus, shitake mushrooms, strawberries, peas and fava beans quickly followed. Our final purchase was a bunch of garlic scapes, impossible to pass by, as they feistily vied for attention, announcing their assertiveness – if not in taste, than in their spiky shape.

Garlic scapes resemble an oversized chive with a bulbous flower at the end. The stalks are firm with a peppery bite and mild garlic flavor. They are wonderful in a stir-fry, because they retain their crispness, and impart a mellow, garlicky flavor. The flowers are edible and, when cooked, have a somewhat astringent and earthy flavor.

Garlic scapes

When we arrived home, I made a paste of garlic, rosemary, sea salt and olive oil and smeared it all over the steaks to marinate in during the afternoon. While they stewed in garlic and rosemary, I prepared a stir-fry of Shitake Mushrooms and Garlic Scapes to serve over the steaks as a fresh garnish, along with grilled asparagus, new potatoes and fresh strawberries and cream for dessert. I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day celebration.

New York Strip Steak with Sautéed Shiitake Mushrooms and Garlic Scapes
Serves 4

Steaks:
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, such as Maldon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 New York or ribeye steaks

Stir-fry:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 to 6 elephant garlic scapes, bulbs removed and saved for another use, stalks thinly sliced
1 sprig rosemary
6 ounces (180 g) shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean with a paper towel, ends trimmed, sliced
1/3 cup (80 ml) beef or chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

  1. Combine garlic, rosemary, and salt in a mortar with a pestle. Smash the garlic and bruise the rosemary. Mix in the olive oil and black pepper.
  2. Rub the oil all over the steaks. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator one hour before grilling.
  3. Prepare the vegetables: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic scapes and sauté 1 minute. Add the rosemary sprig and shitake mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and turn golden brown. Stir in the stock and deglaze the pan and then add the soy sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Grill the steaks over direct heat until cooked to your desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, turning as needed.
  5. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Arrange the steaks on serving plates or platter. Spoon the shitake and garlic scape stir-fry over the meat. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.