I’m not going to lie to you… this is ugly food. Real. ugly. food. And based on the ingredients, it’s probably not something you think you want to eat. And I would have agreed with you, say, 48 hours ago. But now I know better. Now I see the shining light of Heaven, which is pointed – coincidentally – right on this bowl of lentils and farro.
And I know you’re probably all, “Dude, WTF is farro?” Well, let me get all Wikipedia on you for a moment. Farro is known as “the ancient grain” and has supposedly been around for thousands of years. It’s an unrefined grain, containing the bran, endosperm, and the germ of the grain. Refined grains, on the other hand, typically remove the fiber- and nutrient-rich bran and germ, leaving only the calorie-heavy endosperm. Farro is one of the healthiest grains out there because it’s an almost completely unprocessed food source.
I bought a bag of farro a few weeks ago at the grocery store, after seeing a recipe for it on Everyday Italian (Giada’s show before she became a sexed-up Food Network supertease). Having never tried it, well… I didn’t have the highest expectations. I figured it would taste like barley, which is what all the recipes say to substitute if you can’t find farro. You would think that barley would be delicious since it’s a main ingredient in beer and beer is delicious, right? Wrong.
But what I thought would taste like cardboard, instead tasted like sweet, nutty, chewy… kernels of deliciousness. I could have eaten it plain, straight out of the bowl, no seasoning at all. Maybe even just eat it with my hands. I mean… JUST KIDDING. I am a LADY, people.
And well, you know this is going to be good food because it starts with caramelized onions, otherwise known as the food of the gods. Caramelized onions will take what feels like forever to caramelize, upwards of 60 to 90 minutes. The wait is worth it, although you won’t believe me when the smell is taking over your apartment on Minute 37.
Get thee to your grocery store and buy the largest bottle of sriracha
Oh, and then you add feta, a little lemon, and sriracha (the Thai hot sauce most likely available at your nearest grocer). It will blow your mind. It’s sweet from the onions, chewy from the lentils and farro, with a little bit of tang from the feta. The lemon just brightens the dish, making it taste lighter, and not heavy at all. And really, who doesn’t like hot sauce? A couple of drops for me, but add as much as you like. Have I convinced you yet?
Lentils and Farro with Caramelized Onions
Adapted from Orangette
2 medium or large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced along the grain
4 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup farro
½ cup french lentils, carefully picked through for pebbles and debris
10 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained
fresh lemon or lemon juice
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot (test by flicking a few drops of water into the pan – if they skip across the surface of the oil, the oil is hot) and dump in the onions. Be careful! ‘Cause you know, that shiz is hot. Stir immediately to coat the onions, and then season with a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and cook the onions over low heat, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t burn. The onions are done when they are a medium-to-deep brown. Taste as you go, and see what you like.
As soon as the onions have started cooking, heat a medium stockpot of 3 cups of water over high heat (if you cover the pot, it will boil faster). Then, in a medium bowl, begin soaking the farro. Cover the farro with water (at least 2 inches on top of the farro), and stir to make sure the farro sinks to the bottom. Soak the farro for 30 minutes (set your timer, unless you have crazy good timing skillz) while you cook the lentils. Drain and set aside when the 30 minutes is up.
When the water in your stockpot is boiling, add the lentils and another pinch of salt. Bring the water back to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook the lentils for 20-25 minutes. Begin tasting at 15 minutes, as you want the lentils to be chewy but not mushy.
Once the lentils are done, drain the lentils into a strainer and refill the pot with another 3 cups of water. Set the water on high heat and bring to a boil. Add the drained farro and cook for 25-30 minutes or until chewy but not mushy. Start tasting at 20 minutes, and drain into a strainer when the texture is to your liking. Add drained lentils and farro to serving bowl.
At this point, your onions should be just about caramelized. Spoon out the onions into your serving bowl, leaving as much of the residual olive oil still in the skillet as you can. Add the spinach to the pan and toss in the hot oil to wilt slightly, cooking about 2 minutes before removing the spinach to the serving bowl. (You can do this in batches if your skillet isn’t large enough.)
Finally, toss the lentils, farro, onions, and spinach in your serving bowl. Top with feta, as much or as little as you like. Serve with lemon and siracha.
Now Playing: Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – a meal this epic deserves an epic choice of tunes… except I couldn’t figure out which one to post… so I posted my two favorites. Check out their myspace and facebook pages and start praying now for a tour date near you.