I recently won an Amazon gift card from Life360 for my post on cranberry-fig chutney, and I immediately knew I wanted to use it on Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. I'm always aiming to include more whole grains in my meals, and the recipes in this book looked like a really delicious way to do that. I spent the weekend reading through all my options, and decided to try the tomato-eggplant stew with farro first.
Oh boy, is this stew ever amazing! The flavors are deep and rich, but the whole dish is lightened up a bit by a scoop of non-fat yogurt spooned on top. The yogurt provides the perfect tart balance to the savory flavors of the stew ingredients. I added chickpeas and lamb sausage to the original recipe to bulk up the protein content of the stew, so that it can really be a meal on its own. This is the perfect bowl of comfort food on a chilly, rainy evening.
On top of enjoying the delicious stew, I was so glad to finally learn how to cook farro properly! I've used farro in the past, but I've always felt the results were a bit off - no matter how long I cooked it, the farro stubbornly refused to get totally tender. I didn't realize that farro benefits greatly from soaking before cooking, just like dried beans! A six-hour soak allowed the farro to cook up beautifully in about 20 minutes. If you want to prepare your chickpeas from scratch (using dried chickpeas), you can soak them at the same time - cover with water, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and then let soak until ready to cook. Be aware, though, that the chickpeas will take significantly longer than the farro, so you'll want to start them about half an hour before the rest of the stew.
Fire Roasted Tomato Stew with Lamb Sausage, Farro, and Eggplant (adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals)
For the farro:
1/4 cup farro
Pinch of salt
For the stew:
1/2 pound eggplant
1 T olive oil
1 cup diced red onion
1 large garlic clove, lightly crushed
1/4 pound carrots, peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 T tomato paste
14-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1-1/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup raisins
2 T drained, chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 pound lamb sausage
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
Olive oil, to serve
Plain yogurt, to serve
1. Soak the farro for about 6 hours (or overnight). Drain, and then place in a small pot with 1/2 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until tender but still slightly chewy (20-25 minutes). Drain any remaining liquid.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the stew. Cut the eggplant into quarters, and then slice into 1/4-inch slices. Place on a large microwave-safe plate and then drizzle with 1 T water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until the pieces start to soften.
3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the carrots, eggplant, and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the canned tomatoes with their juices, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the broth, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the eggplant is soft and the carrots are tender, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Remove the lamb sausage from its casings and crumble into the hot skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until nicely browned and cooked through.
6. Add the farro, sausage, and chickpeas to stew. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors combine nicely. Add more broth or water if the stew seems too thick. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
7. Scoop stew into serving bowls and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Let cool for a couple of minutes, and then serve with plain yogurt on top.