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My mind is just a big bag of weird when I’m trying to give my food a name, especially when it comes to soups and their many ingredients.  I always try to think of the main ingredient(s) and go from there.  Ok, the farro is a given since I was trying to feature it, and you can’t really leave out the sausage or squash.  But then the winter greens tie it into the season and you can’t quite miss that bright green in the bowl.  So there you have it; half the ingredients are in the title.  Oh well, it’s a mouthful.  Just deal.

The weather forecast for this week (I know, here I am, back on the weather) is literally rainy, sunny, partly cloudy, rainy, partly cloudy, rainy and back and forth.  Whatever, winter, I’m so over you.  You’re supposed to provide me with an excuse to make soup.  I was in the habit a few months ago of making it once a week and then I stopped, one of the reasons being because it was just too dang warm for soup every week.  Well now I’m past caring and just want more soup!

Farro, Sausage and Butternut Squash Soup with Winter Greens

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup farro
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp kosher/sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked sausage, diced (I used leftover smoked turkey sausage)
  • 2 cups winter greens, torn into small pieces (I used kale and collards)

*This can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage and using vegetable stock rather than chicken stock.

This is farro in its pre-cooked state.  In my quest for more knowledge about whole grains, I learned quite a bit about farro.  It’s called farro in Italy, but it’s also known as emmer wheat.  It is the original grain from which all grain derived…isn’t that amazing?  I had no idea.  This is one of the oldest foods ever.  It originated in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions (you know, the Fertile Crescent and Mesopotamia and all that), but now it’s only cultivated in Italy, mainly in the Lazio, Umbria, the Marches and Tuscany regions.

It’s often confused with spelt, which looks remarkably similar, but they have different cooking processes and different textures when cooked.  Barley has very similar properties to farro, and the two can be used interchangeably.  Wheatberries, whole grains from common grain, is also very much like farro.

The farro I bought is organic semi-pearled emmer from Tuscany.  I found it at Fresh Market, but I hear lots of health food and specialty stores carry farro.  It wasn’t very expensive either; I got a 9 oz. package for about $3.50, and a little of this grain goes a long way.  I’ll probably get two or three dishes or sides out of one package.

Most of the time I really do try to eat food grown locally, but that becomes difficult when trying to buy whole grains.  I get my meat, produce and some dairy locally, but until they start growing grain in North Carolina I’ll have to buy outside for this stuff! (Note to self: you can get barley, spelt, wheatberries and other whole grains that are at least from the U.S.  Farro will probably have to be a rare purchase.)

So, on to the recipe.  Sauté the chopped onion in olive oil for a few minutes until they start to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the farro, butternut squash, thyme, salt and pepper.  Sauté for two more minutes.

Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and the Bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, until the farro is cooked and the squash is tender.

Fish out the Bay leaf and add the greens and sausage.  Let it simmer for a few more minutes until the greens wilt. (The sausage was already cooked so it just needed to be heated through.)

This soup was born out of a desire to experiment with farro, but also to use up a bunch of veggies and leftovers I had lying around.  It’s amazing what can be made out of random ingredients.

I really liked this concoction.  So many flavors, colors and textures are present to please the palate.  I loved the smokiness from the sausage, the sweetness from the squash and the brightness the greens provide.

This being my first time eating farro, I liked how it was the perfect texture, not mushy and not hard.  It’s much more substantial than rice, and it seems to take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with.  And the flavor from the tomato paste and Bay leaf make the liquid even more delicious than just a stock base.

And I know this sounds corny, but I loved the idea of making a meal out of such an ancient, relict ingredient.  It kind of ties you in with the past. (Although you don’t want to become too enamored with the days of old, and if you’ve seen Midnight in Paris you know what I’m talking about!  Such a good movie by the way.)

I will be more than happy to pull this out to eat on those rainy days this week.