At some point we all get tired of the same old starches and grains. Potatoes, rice, pasta. Let's get a little experimental and find out some of the secrets that other cultures have known for centuries!
My generation stayed in its lane. Oh sure we thought we were all that, decked out in bell bottoms, earth shoes, and masses of love beads, wearing granny glasses and channeling Janis Joplin. But of course, we were too timid to try those drugs that everyone assumed we were into, and most of us, but not all, missed the bus to Woodstock because we had a paper due.
We understood the world in a way that we were sure our parents didn’t, and expostulated about complex political issues for hours into the night in smoky kitchens drinking coffee and covertly flirting with that intense guy in the scraggly beard who muttered protest songs while playing his guitar. Yup. We knew the world, by golly. We’d been around! Or at least we’d left home, though still supported by those doting parents who didn’t know the world.
You may say that this is the way it has always been, this rite of passage through fatuous ignorance. T’was ever thus. But I have had reason these past years, to notice that a great number of young folks seem to have a truly impressive understanding of the wider world. (Maybe they did in my day too, but I’m pretty sure most of us were bluffing). The internet, of course, has something to do with it. The world is certainly more accessible, though that bearded boy with the piercing blue eyes, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, is probably still warbling around somewhere. No, what convinces me that young folks have truly drifted out of their lane is their awareness of the grains of the world.
Potatoes were the staple of our generation. Well, there was Minute Rice. And egg noodles. Mother thought it was pretentious to call noodles ‘pasta’ though we persisted – being worldly and all. Egg noodles were an essential component of the ubiquitous tuna casserole, still one of my favourites. Breakfast was oatmeal, and rice pudding was dessert. All in all, we pretty much stayed within the lines.
These days, young folks, or many of them, are familiar with a wide variety of rice, and even know that wild rice isn’t rice at all. They know quinoa, and couscous, millet and teff and farro. Barley is no longer just that odd stuff in canned vegetable soup. They try things. They travel. With backpacks. They volunteer in countries that need help. They ask questions, rather than just spout answers. They figure things out. They see the world as horizons, not just borders. Not all of them, of course. And I would bet that most aren’t up on teff, but at least they’re more willing to give it a whirl.
The Instant Pot is helpful in cooking odd grains, but, of course not essential.
I like the following recipe, a variation of one I googled, but trust me on the preparation method. Cooked all together, as the original recipe instructs, is easier but it becomes gloppy. But cooked separately and mixed together, it is very tasty indeed.
Sausage with Farro
(If you’re unfamiliar with farro, here are a few things you need to know:
Farro is a type of wheat – so nope, farro is not gluten-free. In the same family as spelt and kamut, both of which would also work in this recipe. As would rice, for that matter, but that’s not our objective here. Farro is hearty and chewy and maintains it shape (unless you cook it to death) – making it great for salads! Farro has a rich, nutty flavour).
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 16 ounces spicy sausage – spicy is really necessary to balance the bland and sweet elements
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup uncooked farro, rinsed
- 1 large sweet potato, sliced and firmly browned
- 1 large apple, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage – should you happen to have such a thing
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley or, of course, fresh. Some people prefer coriander. Some people don’t.
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Fresh parsley to garnish – or coriander.
- Lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon
- Pistachios if you have them, for a bit of crunch. Or toasted pine nuts. Or pecans…
Brown and crumble the sausage and onion and spices on sauté setting. Set aside.
Cook 1 cup of Farrow and 1 ½ cup water, salt in the Instant Pot – close valve and set on manual high pressure for 15 minutes. The farro should be chewy but still have some texture. If not, cook a bit longer. Water should be absorbed, but if not, drain.
Meanwhile, brown your sweet potato slices in a bit of oil or butter while you wait for the Farro to cook. This step isn’t absolutely necessary but does add nice character to the dish.
When the farro is done, add back the sausage, onion mixture. Stir.
Add the chopped apple and dried cranberries and the sweet potato.
Now it can sit for a bit in the Keep Warm setting, just to settle itself down.
I found that it needed a bit more salt and the kick of some lemon zest and juice before serving, just to brighten it up a bit.
I also added chopped nuts for a bit of crunch.
Serve on salad greens.
It can be used as a side, or to stuff a bird. It is also a great choice to bring to a pot luck. You can bet no one else will show up with a farro dish!
It also reheats nicely, so it makes a great ‘take to work’ lunch the next day.
So there you are. Up to speed with the millennial ethno-foodies, and you didn’t even have to leave your lane! Now maybe let’s try to figure out what’s going on in Honduras….Rwanda...the Middle East.