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Farro.  |  David Hammond Photo

Farro. | David Hammond Photo

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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM

The ancient grain farro — “new” once again — actually it can be three different grains: spelt, einkorn or emmer.

Italians, whose farro is mostly emmer, claim theirs is the “true” farro. In Italy, emmer grown in Tuscany carries IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) designation, which is a legal guarantee of the grain’s origin.

Though not gluten-free, farro is lower in gluten than many other wheat grains. Research suggests it may stimulate immune response, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol. Of course, it’s got a lot of fiber.

Lately farro seems to be everywhere. At Siena Tavern (51 W. Kinzie), for instance, Chef David Blonsky serves farro pasta, farro risotto and even farro beer brewed in partnership with Goose Island.

“Farro is popular with customers,” says Blonsky, “because it’s a whole grain and lower in gluten. Lots of people seem willing to give it a try.”

The grain is popular with chefs, in part, because it requires no soaking and cooks very quickly.

Farro is excellent with wild boar (native to Tuscany) and osso buco. The grains soak up flavors while maintaining their integrity, staying chewy even when awash in savory juices. Try it with turkey and gravy!

If you can’t find farro at your local market, try Conte di Savoia (1483 W. Taylor).

Blonsky uses “semi-perlato” farro, which has part of the outer bran removed:

1. Slowly heat 1 chopped shallot with ¼ cup olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper

2. Add 2 cups farro, stir to coat

3. Deglaze with 2 cups white wine, reduce by half; add 4 cup vegetable stock and cook until stock is absorbed.

David Hammond

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