This year, I’ve been supplementing my garden’s harvest with fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets and the occasional Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. Typically, participating in a CSA program involves purchasing a share of a farmer’s crop before it is produced, but some farmers (like ours) will accept weekly payments for pre-ordered boxes. While quantities vary, the amount of food in a CSA box, usually a 1/2 bushel, typically feeds a family of four for a week. That is a bit too much food for just me and Maggie, so I seldom order a box unless I’m preparing a large meal for family and friends or needing quality, local ingredients for The Factory’s new café. Our friends at nearby Jack-O-Lantern Farm wrapped up this year’s CSA box program last month and I was able to pre-order and pick up a box for the café from their last batch of the season.
The café officially opened last week with the help of consultant and renowned pastry chef, Yewande Komolafe. Yewande, born in Nigeria, has spent the past several years working in pastry kitchens up and down the East Coast, including the Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. She is also known for developing recipes for food publications such as Saveur, Bon Appétit, and Southern Living. We are so glad to have Yewande here with us at The Factory as we take the first steps in this new journey.
Yewande and I have been thinking about how to incorporate seasonal produce into the café’s menu. We roasted pumpkins for soup, baked egg pie with mushrooms and caramelized onions, and, finally, prepared a delicious risotto, featuring farro and winter squash, adapted from this recipe Yewande developed for Saveur.
Risotto refers to the uniquely Italian technique of cooking rice in a flavorful liquid, while stirring consistently to release the starch for an indulgently creamy end result. Farro may not be a common grain associated with risotto, but has every reason to be as it remains perfectly al dente when prepared correctly. We share Yewande’s recipe for Winter Vegetable Farro Risotto below.
WINTER VEGETABLE FARRO RISOTTO
1 1/2 cups any winter squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sage, chopped
1 cup farro (pearled or semi pearled)*
1 small red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig thyme, whole
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup shredded Parmesan
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash and sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25 – 30 minutes, until the edges and browned and crisp. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle 1 tablespoon sage over the still-hot squash. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in your farro and cook for 15 minutes, drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions, garlic, and thyme. Let cook until the onions become slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the cooked farro and stir, coating each kernel evenly. Add in the white wine and let simmer off.
Turn the heat down to low and slowly add in the vegetable stock and the farro cooking liquid, a 1/4 cup at a time, stirring continuously with each addition. Do not add more liquid until the previous 1/4 cup has been completely absorbed by the farro; this process should take about 25 – 30 minutes. After the last addition, stir until about 2/3 of the liquid has been absorbed, add in the roasted squash and sweet potatoes. Fold in the cheese and stir until just melted, top with remaining chopped sage for garnish, season with salt and pepper to taste.
*Pearled or semi pearled grain is best for this dish. Whole grain farro has the husk still on which inevitably gets in the way of the starch release.