Feeding Frenzy

A professional gastronaut feeds the blogosphere with tales of his culinary adventures - sometimes on-the-job, sometimes just-for-the-hell-of-it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emmer ("Farro") Polenta

A couple weeks ago we got in some organic emmer (the Italians call it “Farro”) and spelt products from Lentz Farms in Eastern Washington. We got whole emmer and spelt berries and rolled emmer and spelt. We also got a nice cracked emmer cereal that I immediately knew I wanted to play with. I was also on orders from the boss to start creating recipes using Castelmagno (a fairly rare cheese from the north of Italy).

What I did was to make polenta with the emmer cereal and it turned out beautifully.

First, I made a porcini mushroom broth (yes, we carry dried porcini at PFI). I made it simply by simmering the porcini with garlic, chopped onion and salt to make a dark, coffee-colored broth. You could add typical stock vegetables to this – and you could roast those vegetables first. I didn’t and was happy with the results for my use, but roasting the vegetables first (until they’re dark).

Once I had my broth, I slowly cooked the cereal with it (3 cups of broth to each cup of cereal) until the mixture was quite thick, even stiff. At that point I grated some of the Castelmagno (about 2 ounces of the grated cheese for each cup of cereal) into the cooked cereal and stirred it well. I also added a few dried oregano leaves to the mixture. At this point you would salt and (white) pepper the “polenta” to taste.

You could, at this point, just serve it hot as a side dish for ragouts or meats. Or you could move onto the next step in our game. The choice is yours.

The next step:

Spread the mixture into a sort of cake about 3/4” thick onto a plate or cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Cool in the refrigerator until cold.

When the mixture is cold, remove it from the refrigerator and cut it into squares or diamonds or whatever shapes make you happy. It’s easiest if the shapes fit comfortably on your food-turner (spatula). Chill the shapes again briefly.

Remove them once again from the refrigerator and brush them with a good, grassy extra virgin olive oil. Grill them over a quick hot fire, until nicely marked and heated through. About 4 minutes per side should do the trick. We like to grill over rosemary wood (it’s plentiful in our yard).

You may serve these hot as side dishes or you may let them cool (on a rack and not in the refrigerator or you’ll lose your nice crispy bits) and use them as bases for canapé-style appetizers. Again, the choice is yours.


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