Creamy Farro with Mushrooms (or not)

This is a side dish that I served with stuffed flank steak and roasted vegetables (and that Kate asked me to post ASAP).  The mushrooms work well with beef but (Sarah, this is for you) if you don’t like mushrooms you could substitute anything you might put into a risotto (crumbled bacon, for example, or chopped sun-dried tomatoes) or you could just skip the mushrooms entirely.  Finally, you could make this the basis for a main dish by adding some cooked shrimp or chicken and a sprinkling of herbs (thyme and basil).


1 cup of pearled farro, rinsed in a colander

3 cups of water

½ t. salt

8-12 cremini mushrooms (or substitute any mushroom you prefer), sliced

2 t. olive oil

2 T. sherry

⅓ cup grated parmigian cheese, plus extra for serving

2 T. creme fraiche (or substitute sour cream, greek yogurt or heavy cream, depending on what you have)

salt and pepper to taste


  1.  Place the pearled farro, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan and simmer until the farro is tender (about 45 minutes, perhaps a bit more).
  2. While the farro is cooking,heat the olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced mushrooms and stir.  Add the sherry and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Sauté until mushrooms give up their liquid and most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. When the farro is tender, drain, reserving up to ½ cup of the cooking liquid (it will be milky).  Set aside the cooking liquid.
  4. Return the farro to the pan and add the mushrooms, parmigiana and the creme fraiche.  Stirring to combine.  If the mixture does not appear creamy enough add the cooking liquid a little at a time until you are happy with the consistency.  (If making ahead of time, keep the extra cooking liquid in case the dish becomes a little dry when it is reheated).
  5. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper, if needed.
  6. Top with another sprinkling of parmigiana cheese and serve.

Roasted Squash Soup – Three Ways

The basic technique for this soup can be used with a wide range of winter squash and can take on a variety of different personalities depending on the spices you want to use. Roasting the squash, rather than cubing it and cooking it in the broth, concentrates the flavor, improves the texture and, maybe best of all, avoids the annoyance of having to peel the squash.

I give the basic recipe here using 1 medium kabocha squash and 1 medium butternut because that was what was in our CSA share this week.  You can, however, use all kabocha (1 large or 2 smallish to medium), all butternut (2 large or 3 medium), or even acorn or buttercup (3 medium).


1 medium kabocha squash

1 medium butternut squash

2 T. olive oil plus more for brushing the roasting pan

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 quart low salt chicken stock (preferably very low sodium, if not reduce the added salt)

1½ t. kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

up to 2 T. of honey if the squash is not sufficiently sweet to your taste

hulled pumpkin seeds for serving (if you can’t find hulled pumpkin seeds you can substitute hulled sunflower seeds, crispy crouton or skip the garnish altogether)

For curried squash soup:  ½” piece of ginger, very finely minced or grated; ½  t. vindaloo spice mix (or ⅛ t. cayenne); and 2 t. garam masala (increase 2½ t. if using cayenne in place of vindaloo), ½ t. cumin, ¼ cup plain greek yogurt

For creamy squash soup:  1 t. ginger, very finely minced or grated; ¼ t. grated nutmeg;  3-4 T. half-and-half (whole milk or light or heavy cream can be substituted they will just affect the richness); and substitute butter for the 2 T. of olive oil and vegetable oil of any kind for the olive oil for the roasting pan.

For New England squash soup:  1 Granny Smith (or other tart) apple; 6-8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped; substitute butter for the 2 T. of olive oil and vegetable oil for the oil for the roasting pan


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Cut each of the squash in half and remove the seeds.  Lightly oil the cut side of the squash and the aluminum foil.
  4. Bake the squash cut side down for 30-45 minutes (depending on its thickness) until a knife easily pierces the flesh.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.
  6. Scoop the flesh from the squash into a bowl and set aside.
  7. In a pot heat the 2 T. olive oil (or butter) over medium low heat.  Add the diced onions (and the apples, if using) and sauté until the onion is almost translucent.  Add the minced garlic (and the ginger, if using).  When the garlic is fragrant add the vindaloo, garam masala, and cumin OR nutmeg OR sage leaves and saute, stirring constantly, for a few seconds.  Add the salt and pepper.
  8. Add the chicken stock and cooked squash flesh and increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so to fully combine the flavors.  Remove from the heat.
  9. Carefully puree the soup in a blender (remove the clear plug in the top and cover with a paper towel to prevent blowing the top off) or with a stick blender.
  10. Return the soup to the pot and check for both sweetness (adding honey if needed), and salt and pepper.
  11. Reheat the soup to just below simmering and add the yogurt or half-and-half stirring to combine.  Do not boil after the dairy is added.
  12. Serve topping with garnish of hulled pumpkin seeds.