A Study In Grains: Maple Glazed Carrots with Farro, Bacon and Cabbage

I am not a fan of grains. There, I said it! Sigh.
Never in my life have I been able to cook wild rice in less than two hours without using at least two liters of water. I’m lucky if I don’t have to scrape blackened, burnt white jasmine rice from the bottom of a pan! I’m often confused by the texture of some grains, are they supposed to be crunchy, fluffy, mushy? I’ve also been a little weary of soaking grains {and beans for that matter} overnight, it just seems like an added, extraneous step.

I also do not like trendy, celebrity grains like quinoa that seem to be on every food magazine cover, boasting their beautifying nutritional benefits and glamorous cooking ease. Just like every other celebrity, they don’t dare disclose all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make that beautiful cover shot. Fully aware of all of the nutritional benefits and “blank canvas” opportunities grains have to offer me, I have essentially eliminated them from my repertoire simply because I cannot cook them. {Sad face}

Enter Farro, the game changer.
Farro is an Italian grain, a berry from Emmer wheat. It had been featured on the heirloom tomato seasonal menu at work with patty pan squash and smoked tomato vinaigrette. It was prepared beautifully al dente, tender and fluffy and absorbed the flavors of its counterparts wonderfully. Fearfully, my interest in grains had been piqued once more. Wanting so badly to replicate the delicious taste and texture of the farro made by skilled chefs, I bought some farro from the bulk section at the local natural food store.
After all of my past failed attempts at cooking grains blindly, I did some research this time. {Trumpets, please} Often times, grains are available at different stages of readiness for purchase. Some producers will pre-cook the grains to speed cooking time and save consumers a step or two. This is the case with farro!

FarroCup

-Whole-grain farro is the healthiest and contains the most fiber, but it takes longer to cook than semi-pearled or pearled farro and can be rougher on sensitive digestive systems. It also has an earthier, nuttier flavor. {soaking whole grains overnight will speed up cooking time}
-Semi-pearled farro cooks in about half the time as whole-grain farro because the bran has been scored, allowing heat to reach the center more quickly. It has less nutrition than whole-grain farro, however.
-Pearled farro has had its bran completely removed. It is the quickest yet least nutritious form to consume. (Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Farro)

Not to let the grains steal the show in this recipe, it does feature beautiful tri-color carrots from Rare Earth. These carrots are amazing! At the farm, Steve and Debra Jo grow the carrots in a perfect mix of sand and soil, right by the pine trees.  I’m convinced the location and soil is a big reason why they taste so amazing and grow so abundantly well.
TIP: Store carrots in sand to keep them fresh for months. That’s right, months.

CarrotsBacon

Ingredients:
For the Carrots
{Adapted from Martha Stewart}
1 LB carrots, greens trimmed but not removed
4 slices of bacon
¼ maple syrup
1tsp thyme leaves or 4-5 of thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste
¼ evoo

For the Farro
1 cup Farro {your choice}
1 cup amber ale*
3 cups water*
1 small head of savoy cabbage, sliced
1 leek, white parts sliced
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 small apples, diced
1 tbs butter
evoo
*the ratio of water to beer should be 3:1

Preheat oven to 450º with racks in the lower third of the oven. Line a sheet tray with foil. Cut the carrots into halves, and place onto sheet tray. Lay 4 slices of bacon in between carrots in quarters. Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper over carrots and bacon. Drizzle ¼ maple syrup and evoo over carrots, toss to combine. Pop sheet tray into oven and bake for 20 min, remove and shake carrots to mix. Place into oven for 20 minutes more, until carrots are tender. Discard bacon and thyme sprigs. Set aside.

Render bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Remove bacon once crispy and set onto paper towel, chop. Add 1 TBS butter and leeks to bacon fat and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stir for about 2 minutes. Add farro to pan, stir and toast until light brown, about 6 minutes. Add beer, water and cabbage to pan and bring to light boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer for appropriate time, depending on which type of farro you’re using. About 5 minutes before cooking time is up, add apples and a bit more salt and pepper to the pan, cover and finish cooking. Before plating the dish, add reserved, chopped bacon to farro mixture. Plate the farro on a large serving  dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the carrots right on top of the farro mixture and give them a little evoo love too. Dig in!

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