Few scents evoke an emotional response like that of bread as it rises to perfection in a hot oven. Taste buds awaken, eyes widen, stomachs rumble,...
Fall is in full swing here on the east coast. The long shadows of light and the crisp cool air accompany the earthy delights of the new season. The farmer’s markets are chock full of fresh autumn fruits and vegetables. This recipe brings together two of my fall favorites - farro and figs.
In the fall, I often make my risotto using farro, which adds an earthy, full-bodied taste to the risotto. This dish makes me want to hunker down in front of a fire with a steaming bowl, a huge glass of red wine and a crusty loaf of bread – bring on the season!
Then there are figs. I planted my little fig tree a few years ago and each year, I lovingly wrap its little shape in burlap, giving it a kiss to keep it safe for the winter. There is recent debate online about whether we actually need to wrap fig trees here in eastern Pennsylvania any longer but I am terrified that my little tree will be lost should I not. And there is something special about my late fall ritual …perhaps a nod to the passing seasons, perhaps I am just a bit nuts.
I still remember the first crop of figs from my tree – four to be exact. I had invited the family over for a big fig fest. Well, my bounty was less than expected so I gently split the figs in half. We opened a bottle of prosecco to celebrate. Our ‘fig tasting’ lasted all of about 30 seconds but what a fabulous 30 seconds as each of us tasted our own little piece of heaven.
Fig trees have been present in my life for as long as I can remember - warm memories of eating figs from our grandfather’s tree, at the table with family in Florence or eating figs and prosciutto under a tree in Pantelleria. Maybe some day my little tree will be big enough to shade a friend and me under its gentle leaves.
I hope you enjoy the fall flavors of this dish as much as I do. You might be tempted to skip the roasted figs but they add such a beautiful pop of creamy sweetness to the earthy rustic taste of the farro so please do not skip them. And the leftovers are fantastic made into little arancini or risotto cakes – stick a piece of cheese in the middle for an oozy creamy surprise.
Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto with Roasted Figs
(Risotto di Farro ai Funghi Selvatici con fichi arrostiti)
•6 fresh figs, stems removed, cut in half
•3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper
•1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
•8 ounces fresh mushrooms (shitakes, cremini, portobello, oyster)
•4 cups chicken stock
•2 tablespoons butter
•2 ounces pancetta, diced
•1 small onion, diced
•2 cloves garlic, diced
•2 cups farro
•½ cup dry white wine
•½ cup grated parmigiano (or pecorino) plus additional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the figs with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place cut side up in a small baking dish. Roast for 15 minutes.
Soak the porcini in 1 cup of boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Drain the porcini and strain the liquid through a coffee filter to get rid of any grit. Reserve the liquid. Chop the mushrooms. Set aside. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms.
In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth and the porcini mushroom liquid and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Keep warm.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and onion and saute until the pancetta renders its fat – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan. Stir to combine. Saute the mushrooms until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
Add the farro and stir until well coated. Add the wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed. Turn the heat to medium low and add a ladleful of the hot stock. Continue to cook, stirring and adding stock a few ladlefuls at a time. Allow each addition of stock be absorbed before adding more. Continue to cook until the farro is tender but firm, approximately 20 minutes.
Stir in grated parmigiano. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into a warmed serving bowl. Top with a few of the roasted figs and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with additional parmigiano.
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.