In my quest to fill our pantry with an endless array of gluten-free options, I stupidly brought home a pound of farro last week. I've been a fan of farro for years, so I felt like a total ass when I realized that I knew very little about it. I do know that at some point in time I heard someone mention "farro" and "gluten-free" in the same sentence, and I just went with it. I figured if buckwheat was safe (which, I've just learned isn't actually a wheat), then why couldn't emmer wheat apply to the same principles? I swear I'm not an idiot, guys, but I am still very new to this. When you go from a life of zero dietary restrictions to all of a sudden having one very big and significant dietary restriction, well, it's really not as simple as one would think.
It was all good and fine, though. Like I mentioned, Cheech and I are still consumers of gluten. I had bought the farro specifically to use for soups, and she and I are the bigger soup-eaters in the house anyway. If you do happen to be gluten-free, this soup would be just as delightful if you substituted any type of rice, or even skipped out on the grain and doubled up on the lentils.
Many chefs believe that if you can taste saffron in a dish, then too much saffron was used. Although I wholeheartedly understand their angle, I do think that that's taking the idea a little too far. You need very little saffron to get your point across, but if I'm going to be using the most expensive ingredient on the market, you better believe I want to taste it. There's a fine line, however. Too much of a good thing is never good, and too much saffron can lead to a very medicinal flavor in your food. The golden rule in cooking (and in life, I suppose) is that you can always add more, but you can never take away. Start with the tiniest amount, and slowly build up. For this recipe, I used half of what is pictured in the photo above, so about 10 strands.
Saffron Farro + Lentil Stew with Creme Fraîche and Toasted Almonds
1 large shallot, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large clove of garlic, diced
1/2 c. of lentils
1/2 c. of farro
1/2 c. of white wine
1/2 c. of tomato sauce
4 1/2 c. of stock (chicken or veggie)
handful of almonds, toasted and chopped
salt + pepper
Sauté your shallots and carrots in some oil until the shallots start to become translucent. Add your garlic and sauté for a minute or two more. Add the wine and let all of the liquid cook out. Pour in your tomato sauce and your broth, along with your lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook with a lid partially covering your pot for 20 minutes. Add the farro and saffron. Replace the lid as it was, and cook for another 20 minutes. If your liquid levels are looking very low, feel free to add a little more stock. Season to taste and ladle into bowls, topping each with a spoonful of creme fraîche, a few toasted almonds, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4.