Wow – farro is hot right now! I wanted to make this recipe for company a few weeks ago but when I tried to find farro in the markets, health food stores, grocery stores, it was sold out everywhere! However, the timing worked out perfectly – in the time it took for me to special order some farro, my little fig tree had time to ripen its bounty so that I could use my little treasures in this dish.
This recipe brings together two of my fall favorites – farro and figs. So first a bit on farro – what a cool rustic grain. This little nutritional powerhouse is fantastic in soups, as a salad, subbing for rice. The earthy nutty flavor adds tons of depth and ‘oompfh’ to a dish. If you haven’t given this grain a go, go-go right now to your market to buy some. (Although you might want to call first to make sure they have it in stock!)
Then there are figs. Figs make me smile. I planted my little fig tree a few years ago and each year, I lovingly wrap its little shape in burlap, giving it a kiss to keep it safe for the winter. I get so excited when I peek between its leaves to see the ripening figs which immediately transports me back to days in Sicily sitting under my friend’s tree, happily munching on fresh figs and pecorino while we sipped wine. Maybe some day my little tree will be big enough to shade a friend and me under its gentle leaves (but however will I wrap it in winter?!?) And then there was that time in Pantelleria. I had been invited to dinner at a local’s home whom I had met while sitting writing in my journal down near the harbor. It was a magical evening with 8 new friends – a simple meal served outside under the stars. The conversation somehow turned to figs and very excitedly, I mentioned that I had my very own fig tree in America. I then attempted to tell them that I had four figs on my little tree – however, I mispronounced the word for figs and what I actually said referred to a female body part that is not fit for blog-writing consumption. You will have to figure that one out on your own. The group erupted into a howling puddle of laughter. In between their howls, they gently explained to me what I had actually said. I still get text messages from this crowd asking about my figs.
I hope you enjoy the fall flavors of this dish as I much as I did. You might be tempted to skip the roasted figs but boy, they add such a beautiful pop of creamy sweetness to the earthy rustic taste of the farro so please do not skip them. Its magic in a dish! Happy Fall!
Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto with Roasted Figs
(Funghi Selvatici Risotto di Farro con Arrosto di Fichi)
6 fresh figs, stems removed, cut in half
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
8 ounces fresh mushrooms (shitakes, cremini, portobello, oyster)
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups farro
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated parmigiano (or pecorino) plus additional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the figs with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place cut side up in a small baking dish. Roast for 15 minutes.
Soak the porcini in 1 cup of boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Drain the porcini and strain the liquid through a coffee filter to get rid of any grit. Reserve the liquid. Chop the mushrooms. Set aside. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms.
In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth and the porcini mushroom liquid and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Keep warm.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and onion and saute until the pancetta renders its fat – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan. Stir to combine. Saute the mushrooms until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
Add the farro and stir until well coated. Add the wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed. Turn the heat to medium low and add a ladleful of the hot stock. Continue to cook, stirring and adding stock a few ladlefuls at a time. Allow each addition of stock be absorbed before adding more. Continue to cook until the farro is tender but firm, approximately 20 minutes.
Stir in grated parmigiano. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into a warmed serving bowl. Top with a few of the roasted figs and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with additional parmigiano.