If recipes with names like Wheat Berry Fools, Mediterranean Mussels with Farro and White Wine, and Bulgur with Butter-Roasted Almonds and Cinnamon pique your culinary interest, you’ll definitely want to sink your teeth into Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. This cookbook — which features recipes for nutrient-rich farro, barley, quinoa, wheat berries, and other whole grains — is by far one of our new favorites. On this week’s Cooking with the Moms, we feature our recent lunch interview with author Maria Speck and share a few of the amazing recipes from her new cookbook.
Plump and chewy farro stars in this summer-inspired recipe for Mediterranean Mussels with Farro and White Wine. In the United States, the type of farro that’s typically sold is of the emmer variety, first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent almost ten thousand years ago. We like to use semi-pearled farro because it cooks up quickly in just 20 to 25 minutes.
Maria treated us to a lunch of Mediterranean mussels!
Mediterranean Mussels with Farro and White Wine
Serves 3 or 4 as a Light Main Course, or 4 to 6 as a Starter
For the Farro
- 1½ cups water
- 3/4 cup farro
- 1 small bay leaf
- 2 whole peppercorns
- Pinch of fine sea salt
For the Stew
- 2 pounds fresh mussels in their shells
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (about 1 small)
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 small)
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery stalks (1 to 2 pieces)
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 dried red chile
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1½ cups dry white wine
- 1½ cups chopped fresh or diced canned tomatoes with their juices, (one 14-ounce can)
- 1½ cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. To prepare the farro, bring the water, farro, bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the grain is tender but still slightly chewy, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, drain any remaining liquid, and set aside.
2. While the farro simmers, rinse the mussels under cold running water, brushing to remove sand and residue on the shells. Remove the beards (hairy clumps around the shell) with tweezers or a sharp knife. Discard chipped mussels. Tap any open mussels and discard if they don’t close. Set the cleaned mussels aside.
3. To make the stew, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary, the bay leaves, chile, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add 1/4 cup of the white wine, and cook until syrupy and the liquid is almost gone, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the water, the remaining 1 1/4 cups white wine, the pepper, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a lively simmer until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar.
4. Add the mussels and the farro together with the remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and steam over medium to medium-high heat, shaking the pot once or twice in between, until the mussels open, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and discard any unopened mussels.
5. To finish, add the lemon juice. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. Drizzle the mussels with the olive oil and serve right away in deep plates, garnished with parsley and with lemon wedges on the side.
Maria refers to bulgur as “the perfect ancient fast food.” It’s often associated with tabouli but also finds its way into soups, meatballs , and pilafs. Bulgur is made by boiling wheat and then drying and cracking it into various sizes. The outer bran layer is removed, so it cooks up very quickly.
Bulgur with Butter-Roasted Almonds and Cinnamon
- 1¾ cups water
- 1 cup medium-coarse bulgur
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup toasted whole almonds, skin on (we used slivered almonds)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
1. Pour the water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the bulgur and salt, and return to a boil. Decrease the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to steam for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt.
2. While the bulgur steams, melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet or saucepan, preferably stainless steel. Cook, watching attentively, until the aroma of the butter becomes deep nutty-sweet, the color turns golden brown, and the bottom of the pan fills with brown specks, 3-5 minutes
3. Add the almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute Add the bulgur to the skillet (it might splatter!), stir to combine and serve right away.
“Recipe reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.” Book cover: Photo credit, Sara Remington © 2011
GIVEAWAY NEWS: Maria is offering one lucky blog reader/podcast listener the chance to win a copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, U.S. only please. The publisher sent us one copy, and we’ve had a hard time sharing (or shall we say, Liz has had a hard time sharing). We’re thinking about setting up some sort of Meal Makeover Mom “shared custody” schedule for the cookbook!
To Enter: Leave a comment here on our blog or on Facebook and tell us about your favorite grain and how you like to use it. From quinoa and millet to barley and brown rice, we can’t wait to read about your favorites grains and preparations.
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Please be sure to leave us a new comment every time you do something extra, and GOOD LUCK! The giveaway ends on August 10th at noon, and as always we’ll use random.org to pick our winner.
In Maria’s kitchen, jars of different whole grains are kept within easy reach.
Liz’s mother-in-law, Joy, joined us for lunch at Maria’s beautiful home.
What a way to end a meal: Maria treated us to Wheat Berry Fools with Grand Marnier Figs. She calls for soft wheat berries in this recipe but also suggests using leftover cooked spelt, kamut, or farro.