Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Curried Carrot Salad

This is short and photoless, cause the last one was long and had lots of pictures, and this one isn't pretty to look at. But it's pretty damn tasty.

Waste not, want not. I still had at least a large bag (probably more) of baby carrots sitting in a tub of water in my fridge from doing the food for the We Are Family benefit last month. (Check them out. They rock in more ways than one.) I was trying to get through them, but there's only so many baby carrots and hummus a person can eat. (And I ate a lot of baby carrots and hummus. Didn't seem to be making a dent.) So, heat be damned, I roasted those suckers. With some garlic, ginger and curry powder. When they cooled down, I coated them in Greek-style yogurt. They won't last long now.

1 largeish bag baby carrots (or similar amount of regular carrots - remember those? - peeled and chopped into big-ish pieces)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
1 cup Greek-style or strained plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 75. Put the carrots in a largeish roasting pan. Mix the garlic, ginger, curry powder and olive oil into a loose paste and coat the carrots with it. (Cmon... just use your hands. It's so much easier.) Roast the carrots, stirring occasionally until they're sweet and tender and beginning to caramelize, at least an hour. Cool to room temperature and coat with yogurt.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hard as Pie

OK, pie isn't really _that_ hard. Especially not once you get the hang of it. But there's a lot going on in there. Family recipes are highly individualized (not to mention closely guarded). Family pie standards are just as idiosyncratic. Everyone seems to have strong opinions on the ideal degrees of flakiness, tenderness, butteriness, brownness, sweetness and the amount (and even presence) of the decorative outer edging. It seems that the kind of crusts someone likes (and the kind of crust they make) is almost as individual as a fingerprint.

Yet the actual ingredients remain fairly constant. In his book, Ratio, Michael Ruhlman describes the proportions -- 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water (all by weight) -- to which most pie dough recipes conform, more or less. The type of fat, rather than the amount, is usually the biggest variable. Butter, shortening, margarine, lard and even cream cheese all have devoted factions. (Other ingredients pop up from time to time as well, like vinegar or other acids and eggs.)

I grew up accepting the standard kitchen lore that the type of fat determined the texture of the crust, the gold standard being "tender, flaky crust." In my accepted version of crustology, the whole idea of "tender AND flaky" was an unachievable fallacy. Tender and flaky were opposites, and you had to choose one direction or another, or come to some compromise in between. Butter led to more cookie-textured (and more flavorful) crusts and shortening led to flaky crusts (that were often a little tough). My mother, after much tinkering, settled on a formula 2 parts butter to one part Crisco. It's a wonderfully flavorful crust, not terribly flaky, but tender and broadly useful, and it was the pie crust in my house growing up, for ever and ever, amen.

Except that I'm kind of a good idea slut. I have no particular faithfulness to doing things my way. If your way works better, then, hey...

One day I was making blueberry squares without the benefit of a Cuisinart and I noticed that mixing in the fat using a pastry cutter seemed to yield flakier results, even with the usual ingredients. Hmmm... Then, a few years ago, Gourmet [sob] published a recipe for sour cherry pie that included pie dough with almost the same butter-Crisco ratio as my mom's, but with a very different method. It used a technique called fraisage that I was familiar with because my mom had used it to make her famous shortbread, but never her pie dough. Basically you blend the fat in by smearing the dough with the heel of your hand, creating pastry layers almost as if you're making really quick and dirty puff pastry. Instead of mixing up your ingredients and hoping for the best, you build flakiness right in. You don't give your pastry a choice.

So, all this sort of implied that the type of fat was not the only thing, or even the main thing, determining the texture of my pie dough. As usual, the madness is in the method. Is this why people consider pie dough so tricky? Perhaps that's also why everyone's pie dough is so unique. From the same basic 3-2-1 ratio of flour to fat to water, everyone becomes comfortable with their own process, and these are the kinds of things that make it into written recipes imperfectly, if at all.

This really became clear to me the other night. I had been thinking about a pie dough blog post, and invited a friend to a head-to-head pie comparison. Still focused on the types of fat being used, I had sort of planned a dairy vs non-dairy crust competition, but, what with one thing and another, at the last minute we both ended up using some combination of butter and Crisco, only with the proportions just about reversed. (My pie had more butter.) But while our ingredients weren't really that different, our methods definitely were. Having grown up with Cuisinart pie dough, I'd never seen a stand mixer used... Interesting! The motion of the paddle attachment actually comes closer to the motion I use with my fingers. ("Hey... are you stealing my secrets?!" my friend asked. Absolutely.) But what I noticed was that the pieces of butter in the machine-mixed dough, like my mom's Cuisinart-mixed dough, ended up much smaller, the texture much more even than my hand-mixed dough. Once baked, my friend's crust was, by design, much more cookie-like and less flaky in texture than mine, and the bottom crust stood up particularly well to the juicy sour cherry filling.

One further experiment confirmed what I'd been thinking. I made a non-dairy pie with about 2 parts Crisco and 1 part margarine (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks), using my hand-mixed/fraisage method. The dough itself felt much more supple than butter dough, but, when baked, the texture was nearly identical to my butter crust. Both were... tender and flaky. Only the flavor differed significantly. The Crisco crust had a more neutral flavor, whereas the butter crust, unsurprisingly, was richer.

At this point, having come to the conclusion that the texture is mostly a result of method, I rather unscientifically set out to bolster my conclusion with research. Michel Suas's encyclopedic Advanced Bread and Pastry did not let me down. Suas explicitly divides pie dough into "mealy" and "flaky". ("Mealy" is not meant as a pejorative here. It's what I've been calling "cookie-like".) The difference? It's all about the size of the fat left by the mixing process. If you want flaky pastry, leave some particles the size of a pea or larger. (For industrial mixing processes, the recommended size is walnut sized!) If you want cookie-like pastry, cut the butter into the flour more thoroughly, to the point where the mix resembles cornmeal. Apparently, it's that simple. Since it's easier to mix the flour and fat to a more even point in a machine (either Cuisinart or mixer) the less flaky results my mom and my friend both get make a lot of sense. As does the fact that I started getting flakier crusts when I started mixing by hand. I'm not patient enough to hand-mix flour and butter to completely even and tiny pieces.

Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking was similarly illuminating. Apparently, shortening has a reputation for making a flakier crust because it is more forgiving to work with than butter, but given the right conditions, butter can make just as flaky a crust. Temperature is the key. According to McGee, "butter has the right consistency for making pastry in a relatively narrow temperature range, between 58 and 68 degrees F." I'd been on the right track, using cold (usually frozen) butter, working quickly, and chilling the dough once mixed.

McGee also points out that butter contains water (regular American butter has about 15%, European-style butters have less) while shortenings do not. Too much water in the fat can both "glue adjacent layers together" -- presumably a bad thing for flakiness -- while just the right amount can provide steam to push them apart. So the ancient kitchen wisdom wasn't all wrong. I think this probably means that you have to be more careful when adding water to butter pastry than you do with shortening pastry, since too much water will make for tougher pastry.

So, for the record, here's my all-important method for flaky butter crust.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, preferably frozen, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup Crisco, preferably frozen
4 to 7 tablespoons ice water

Add flour, sugar and salt to a bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the fat into the dry ingredients. OR Quickly, with your fingertips, pinch the fat into the dry ingredients. OR use a mixer with a paddle attachment at low speed (I think this would be my preference now, over the Cuisinart: at least one good idea successfully stolen!) or Cuisinart to mix. MIX ONLY UNTIL ALL FAT CHUNKS ARE THE SIZE OF PEAS - HAZELNUTS OR SMALLER.

If you're mixing by machine at this point, stop. Slowly add 3-4 tablespoons of ice water. Mix the water in with a fork. Use only as much water as is needed to get the ingredients clumping together. Add a bit more water if needed. (If you're going for flaky, err on the side of less water.) The amount of water you need will vary based on the humidity (flour absorbs moisture from the air). Take a handful of dough and squeeze it together. If it doesn't crumble, you're good.

Next step, Fraisage: Start with a couple of handfuls of the dough on a clean work surface. With the heel of your hand, quickly smear the dough together.

With a pastry scraper, pick up the smeared dough and start a pile. Work through the rest of the dough the same way, until you have a pile of soon-to-be flaky layers.

REFRIGERATE THE PILE FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR. Put it in the freezer if you're in a hurry.

This is the longest blog post ever and we haven't even talked about the part that gives most people fits: rolling it out. This is just not that big a deal once you get the hang of it. I use plastic wrap. It makes things a lot easier, plus you're not adding more flour to the dough, which would change the consistency.

Wet down your work surface. This will help the plastic wrap stick to it. You'll need two pieces of plastic wrap to accommodate a 9-10 inch pie.

We're making a 2-crust pie here, so we're starting with the bottom. Take 2/3 of your dough. Cover it with two more pieces of plastic wrap.

Use your rolling pin to flatten it out a bit.

Then roll it into a circular thing. Start from the middle and push away from you, or pull toward you, in all directions. Periodically sweep along the edges. You don't have to worry too much about the edges being pretty. I roll mine fairly thin, maybe 2 mm. One advantage of plastic wrap is that you can run your hand over it and feel which parts are thicker than the others.

Peel the plastic wrap off the top to make sure it releases (if it doesn't, it needs more time in the fridge) but then put the plastic wrap back on and flip it over. Peel the plastic wrap off the other side. (Save the plastic wrap to roll out the top crust.) Use your rolling pin to pick up the crust and help you center it in the pie plate.

Make sure the dough gets down into the corners of the pie plate.

Fill the pie. (What? You want to know what to put in it? I dunno. Fruit. Maybe 5-6 cups for your average pie. Depending on how juicy the fruit is, add a few tablespoons of--in order of thickening ability--flour, cornstarch or crushed tapioca. Depending on how sweet your fruit is, add anywhere from a third of a cup to a cup or more of white or brown sugar. You can also add flavors like lemon juice, a splash of your favorite liquor or extract, cinnamon, whatever. This is not the hard part.)

Roll out the top crust the same way. Once the top crust is draped over the top of the pie, go around the outside of the crust and remove as much as you like. Some people like to take off all the excess crust. I like to leave about an inch. My mom likes to leave as much as possible. She's all about the decorative edging. I don't like too much because the inside of the edges never quite bake. Then roll the edges up. This seals the insides of the pie and prevents leaks.

Crimp the edges. It's decorative, and it also helps make sure the edging cooks all the way through.

Cut vents on your pie. You can be as decorative as you want, but they also serve a functional purpose in letting out steam from the filling as it cooks.

Some people like to use pie shields to keep the edges from getting too brown. Sometimes I do this at the beginning and take them off after about 15 minutes. Other times I only do it after the fact if the edges look like they're getting too brown. Here is my mom's patented aluminum foil pie shield. For a 9-10 inch pie, you'll need 4 strips of foil, rolled together.

Start your pie at a higher temperature, about 425 to 450, for about 15 minutes. This helps make sure the fat in your pie actually sets instead of just slowly melting, according to Harold McGee. (Note: if you've forgotten to pre-heat your oven, put the pie in the fridge while it heats up. It's all about keeping the pastry cold until it's ready to go.) Then turn it down to 350-375 and finish it for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden brown.

Don't be tempted to take it out until the crust is really cooked. There's nothing worse than uncooked pie dough. You'll know your crust was underdone if it gets soggy by morning and starts to look raw. Not good.

I like glass pie plates because you can see the bottom crust, too. Check your pie about 15 minutes before it's done. If the bottom isn't browning enough, you can move the pie to a lower position in the oven (another observation we made during the pie-off, that was later supported by Harold McGee, though baking the pie in the lower part of the oven for the whole time will probably make the bottom crust a bit too brown). Flaky pie dough in particular needs to be well browned on the bottom in order to stand up to juicy fillings like fruit. Cookie-like dough is naturally heartier.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nick Malgieri's Rhubarb and Orange Tart

I've taken long enough with this post that rhubarb is just about out of season. Just about, but maybe not completely. I think, though, this recipe, from Nick Malgieri's How To Bake, is so neat and adaptable that it may not matter. Other, more seasonable fruits may inspire you.

I originally made this for Easter, in an effort to find an alternative to strawberry rhubarb pie, a family favorite that I--heretically--find a bit too sweet. And while this tart isn't actually that, um, tart, at least the sugar that's needed to take the edge off of the rhubarb doesn't end up in the final product. Rather, the rhubarb is very gently candied in syrup and the syrup is drained off (the better to make fancy cocktails or sweeten iced tea with). Not only does that keep things from getting too sweet, it also, as Malgieri points out, keeps the richly orange-scented custard nice and creamy since it's not watered down by rhubarb juices.

The whole thing comes together with a crumb topping. Lovely as it tasted, though (and the rhubarb and orange were really good together) it got me thinking about what else could be done with citrus- (or something else-) custard and lightly candied fruit. The nice thing about the how gently the fruit is candied/sugar poached is that it would work with all but the most delicate fruits. Sugar syrup is brought to the boil, and then the fruit is added off the heat. While the syrup cools, the fruit trades a bit of excess juice for just the right amount of light sweetness. So it might not work with, say, raspberries (though maybe it would) but I bet blueberries or cherries would be just perfect. Pair whatever fruit strikes your fancy with orange, lemon or even grapefruit zest in the custard, and you have a tart for all seasons.


1 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut up in small pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Add the butter and pinch the butter into the dry ingredients quickly with your fingertips (or pulse it briefly in the food processor) until it's well combined. Add in the egg and mix with a fork. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough 3 or 4 times, then form into a disc. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


1 to 1 1/2 lbs fresh rhubarb (or blueberries, or cherries or whatever) cleaned and cut into smallish pieces
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a shallow pan large enough to hold the fruit as well. Remove the pan from the heat and add the fruit. Cover the pan and let it cool to room temperature. Drain the fruit well, saving the syrup for some other good purpose.

Preheat oven to 350


2/3 cup heavy cream
scant 1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 medium orange (or lemon or grapefruit or maybe ginger?)
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg yolks

Whisk the custard ingredients together. If you feel like making it extra smooth, strain it through a mesh strainer before adding the zest.


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white or brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Combine dry ingredients. Stir in melted butter and combine. Form into a ball.


Roll out the dough and line a 9-10 inch tart pan with it. Spread the fruit in the pan and pour the custard over it. Break the ball of crumbs into pieces and scatter them across the top.

Though it probably won't overflow, it's not a bad idea to put a cookie sheet underneath the tart pan. Bake the tart for 40 minutes or until the filling is set and the crumbs have browned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ode to Escarole

I’ve been contemplating escarole lately, lettuce’s slightly more bitter, significantly more tasty cousin. (Its siblings, apparently, are chicory, endive and radicchio.)

Escarole used to be a once a year thing in my family. Every Easter Saturday it’s time for Sunday Soup (I know, just go with me here) a soup so delicious, so amazing, it feels a little sacriligious to have it at any other time of year. To me, at least. My sister makes it on a regular basis. Life is too short, she says. She’s got a point. Sunday Soup is an example of that kind of Italian cooking that takes a few intense, simple, perfect, perfectly complementary ingredients, and allows them to become even more than the sum of their parts.

Sunday Soup starts with a very simple but strong beef broth. Take about a 5 or 6 pound brisket or chuck roast, sear it on all sides, and cover it with water. Keep it on a very low simmer until the broth is delicious, then salt and pepper to taste. Remove the meat and serve it separately with mustard. (Or make Marcella Hazan’s delicious boiled beef salad, sliced thin, and dressed with –in its simplest version—salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Another version adds mustard, anchovies, cornichons, capers, onions and herbs. Both are excellent excuses to make and freeze lots of extra beef broth.)

Then come the tiny meatballs, made with 2-3 pounds of ground beef (or some combination of beef, pork and veal), 3-4 eggs, freshly chopped parsley, generous salt and pepper, and maybe a couple of cups of bread crumbs. The meatballs are usually rolled about ¾ of an inch in diameter. If you’re good, you can roll them 2 or even 3 at a time. We long ago stopped frying them, since this required so many batches that the task of standing in front of the stove and dealing with them tended to artificially, unacceptably, limit the number of meatballs. Instead, we found they’re just as good if you bake them at high heat. They usually fill about 2 half-sheet pans, and bake at about 400 degrees. Turn them over once. (Don’t pack them so tightly on the sheet that you don’t have room to turn them.) Once they’re done, put them in with the finished beef broth. Refrigerate the meatballs and broth overnight and remove the fat from the top the next morning.

All that’s left to do is heat up the de-fatted soup and add a couple of heads of chopped up escarole. (Save some back to add at the last minute, so it’s still a little crunchy.) Something amazing happens to the beef broth with the addition of the escarole. The broth was rich and delicious before. But the little bitter, fresh kick from the escarole cuts the richness a bit, and adds a whole new dimension.

The fourth and final element is not added to the soup pot but to the bowls. A handful of small cubes of hard mozarella (fresh mozarella works, too, but I prefer the way the hard stuff melts) goes into each bowl just before the piping hot soup. By the time you take your first bite, the cheese has melted enough to give you an appreciable string from your bowl, and adds a counterpoint of richness to the broth, still perfectly offset by the escarole. The still-slightly-crunchy escarole wraps in and around the little meatballs in each spoonful. It’s one of the most perfect things I’ve ever eaten.

So, how close to Sunday Soup can I come without anticipating and spoiling this once-a-year ritual? One soup experiment with turkey meatballs and no mozarella flirted with danger, but ultimately did no harm, I think. But I’ve also been making various other, non-soup things with escarole.

Turning first to Marcella Hazan (of course) I found, in Marcella Cucina, a recipe for Apulian-style bitter greens, blanched and then sauteed with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, a bit of chili pepper, and finished with homemade croutons. The crutons, made with a few slices of homemade bread, and fried in canola oil added the rich note that so nicely offsets the slight bitterness of the escarole. There was just a touch of garlic—whole cloves cooked just to golden and then removed from the scented oil, and then the magic deliciousness of the anchovies. I had a bit of an uh-oh moment as I added the finely chopped anchovies. They gave off the last of their fishiness as they hit the oil, but that was the end of it. Once the blanched escarole was added, the fishiness was gone. The result was incredibly good. I might actually use a few fewer croutons next time. And—I confess to an occasional difference of taste with the great Marcella on the subject of vegetable doneness—I might not blanch the escarole first. I think I might just wilt it in the pan. (Though greens with more bitterness would probably still benefit from blanching.)

The next experiment, from Food and Wine, while delicious, was, well, almost cheating. It’s an example of what I think of as lazy cooking—relying on cream and pork fat, not to mention a spike of homemade veal stock, to make its point. I mean, yes. It was yummy and comforting. But it’s the exact opposite of the magic that happens with the few perfectly balanced ingredients in Sunday Soup. And the escarole almost gets lost in this dish. I would up the quantity by at least 50 percent.

Not sure what awaits the head of escarole remaining in my crisper, but it may be another shot at soup while it’s still Winter.

Monday, February 1, 2010


The blog... It's alive! After almost two years, the blog is back. So yeah. Um, anyway, farrotto, or, farro, prepared like risotto...

Farro is a very trendy grain lately, despite the fact that no one seems to be totally sure what it is. I got mine in a package thoughtfully marked "FARRO" at Whole Foods so I didn't have to do too much thinking on my own. Farro is apparently an "ancient grain" (I don't know, either) often used in the Veneto region of northern Italy, where they work risotto-like magic upon it. (Speaking of risotto magic, anyone who has not seen the episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations from Venice (season 6) should hurry up and stream it from Netflix to watch what the expert risotto chefs on Murano do instead of stirring. It will blow your mind. OK, it blew my mind. Maybe your mind is not quite as susceptible to blowout-by-risotto as mine seems to be. But it makes spectacularly clear what is meant by the Venetian preference for risotto "all'onda" or wavy.)

The interest in farro seems to stem from the idea that farro is capable of making a sort of wholeier-grainier type of Italian comfort food than the (I guess now passe) Arborio rice. Comparing the labels, farro did, indeed, appear to have approximately twice the protein per 50g as the Arborio in my cupboard, and approximately 3g of dietary fiber, which is 3g more than Arborio has. And there are probably other nutritional goodies hiding out in the little farro kernels that were not apparent from the limited info on the label. So, I see the appeal from that angle.

I made my farrotto more or less the way I would have made a risotto. I initially turned to the internet for guidance. I wasn't sure whether it was going to need overnight soaking or something. (It didn't.) The only real difference was, based on a suggestion I found here, I whizzed the farro around in the Cuisinart for a few pulses before starting, to crack some of the grains and make them cook more easily. This didn't seem to have much effect on the hard little grains, and I have absolutely no idea whether it made any kind of difference at all to the final product. On this particular day, I had a small head of radicchio in the fridge, so I shredded that, and sauteed it down thoroughly (it was pretty bitter starting out) with some caramelized shallots (I had forgotten I'd used my last onion... I don't know how that happened... but it was OK, because the radicchio really needed the extra sweetness from the shallots). The total cooking time might have been a little longer than it would have been for risotto, but I definitely didn't cook it for anything like the 1 1/2 hours suggested in the link above.

How did it stack up against risotto? As a more nutritious alternative to risotto (which I lately tend to prefer over pasta for weeknight what-do-I-want-to-do-with-what's-in-the-fridge? type meals) it's very, very promising. I'd definitely say it's an alternative, rather than a substitute. That's a good thing... it's a thing in its own right, not a nutritionally spruced-up version of something else you'd rather be eating, like, say, whole wheat pasta (which I'm still having a hard time getting behind, frankly).

First, the flavor. It's somewhere in the barley family. It's more assertive than risotto. I've seen it referred to as "nutty" but I think "earthy" might be more apt. I didn't happen to use any mushrooms, but there was a definite mushroom-y note. I used beef broth, and I'm glad I did. Basically, think anything that would work well with a hearty beef barley soup would be welcome. Mushrooms, absolutely. Maybe a little anchovy. Red wine or vermouth. Squash. Rosemary and/ or sage. Pancetta. Smoky flavors would work. This is not to limit things, really, but more to say that I bet subtle flavors could get lost if you didn't think it out carefully. Risotto is a base for the flavors you add to it (and serve with it). With farotto, you'll need to consider the farro flavor as a partner for the other flavors.

Secondly, there are big, significant differences in texture. Here's the really important thing to know about farro: unlike Arborio rice, FARRO WILL NOT GIVE OFF STARCH AS IT COOKS AND IS STIRRED. As you stir risotto, the grains of rice release starch. This is what gives risotto its lovely creamy texture, even before you've added cream or butter or cheese. For farrotto, on the other hand, this means several things:

--It means there's not much point in stirring it as often as you would risotto. So, that means somewhat less effort for those anti-stirrers among you (of whom, people who have cooked with me will know-- I can hear them snickering now-- I am not one).

--BUT it also means that the texture of your farrotto will not be thickened by starch the way risotto's is. So-- important point-- as you get toward the end of adding your broth, YOU'LL WANT TO SLOW DOWN and add it a very little at a time. When you're making risotto, if you add a little bit too much broth, it sort of absorbs into the rice and into the starchy/creamy "sauce" that makes up the risotto. If you add a little too much broth to farrotto, you'll have barley soup. The liquid isn't going anywhere unless you cook it off, and it won't be thickened by starch, because there isn't any.

--BUT BUT that means that your farrotto is ultimately a little more forgiving. If you don't serve it instantly, it's not as much of a big deal. It's not going to get gummy and sticky like risotto. It also means you can heat it up the next day for lunch a little more successfully. Though that also means if you tried to make farrotto arancini (the fried risotto balls that are the traditional Italian solution to the lousy sticky risotto leftovers problem) they'd just fall apart in the pan since there'd be nothing holding them together.

--BUT BUT BUT that means if you want your farrotto to be creamy, you're going to need to impose the creaminess from without. I added about a tablespoon of creme fraiche (not strictly traditional I realize) and that made the texture very nice. The whole pot (1 cup of farro) made about about 4 servings, so I figured... eh... a quarter of a dollop of creme fraiche (ok, plus the Parmigiano I grated over it) wasn't going to completely wipe out the nutritional advantage of the farro (especially since I probably would have added it to risotto as well). But it's something you'll want to be aware of. It would, for example, make a vegan farrotto less texturally appealing than a vegan risotto.

As for the texture of the individual grains, farro retains more bite than risotto rice. Again, it's definitely more forgiving. Risotto has a fairly brief perfection point, where the grain is no longer hard in the middle, but it's not yet too soft to have any bite at all. If you pass the ideal point with risotto, the grains get too soft, and the whole thing is just kind of mushy. Farrotto retains a nice almost elastic bite that didn't seem to be hurt by a little extra cooking (I was trying to get rid of the extra liquid I'd mistakenly added) or even by microwaving the next day. I'm sure it's theoretically possible to cook it to the point of mush, but the danger certainly didn't seem imminent.

So, I guess I'm on the farrotto bandwagon. Whatever. It was delicious. There's plenty of scope for having fun with. Definitely something to explore in more depth, even at the risk of foodie hipness.