Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barley is the Old/New Farro

I've been reading a lot of recipes lately that call for an ancient Italian grain called farro and recently tried to find some for a recipe that sounded good. Farro? What's that? Well, that what every clerk in the natural food stores, specialty stores and Italian markets that I checked asked me too. Since I couldn't find this elusive grain anywhere, I took a close look at the photo for the recipe and decided that it looked pretty much like barley.  I did a quick Wikipedia search and found that I was right in my assumption--barley is actually very similar to farro, and has an incredible history, having been one of the first domesticated grains.

So now I've forgotten all about farro and I'm throwing my allegiance back to barley. Yes, I'm fickle like that. I always have barley in my cupboard to make Black Bean, Corn and Barley Burritos anyway.
I got the framework for this recipe out of last year's Bon Appetit magazine and kept it in the back of my head, always meaning to make it, yet somehow always forgetting.  Today, as I walked around Trader Joe's, I saw all the ingredients and it just came together for me.  (I like to think I cook in the style of "The Matrix": it all just looks like static until you finally see the picture made by the 1s and 0s.)

My final recipe is actually quite different from the original because I just can't stick to a recipe. (There are always more vegetables that can be added!) But in case you want to compare, here it is.

Barley, Green Bean, and Chicken with Goat Cheese
loosely adapted from Jeanne Thiel Kelley in Bon Appetit

1 cup barley (find it near the dried beans in the market)

1 chicken breast

1 small onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cup of green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup corn
1/4 cup of white wine

2 oz goat cheese
zest of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of chile flakes
handful of chopped parsley

Cook barley according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet saute the chicken over high heat quickly with a little oil until cooked and remove from pan, set aside.  Add a little more oil and then the garlic and onions over medium heat, saute one minute. Add the carrots and green beans, saute one minute. Add the bell pepper and corn, saute one minute. Add the chile flakes and wine and cook one or two minutes, or until reduced.

Now add the chicken back to the pan and follow with the cooked barley.  Toss it all together and add the goat cheese, lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top it off with the parsley to make it pretty. This should make 2 big servings, or leave out the chicken and it's a side dish for 4.


  1. Look at your chunky homegrown carrots! I'm taking a chance on planting some this year, thanks to you. And I totally get your Matrix-style recipe development - I do the exact same thing. Same brain again!

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  3. Hey Sarah, if you are still looking for Farro, you can try They are located in south pasadena, but i'm sure she's shipping too. Best of luck!

  4. I had a nice cold farro salad awhile back at a really nice french restaurant. It is tasty stuff. I found farro at a specialty store, in reality it is an inexpensive grain. You think we could find it in more places.


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