This quick weeknight recipe features good-for-you grains, courtesy of Massachusetts cooking instructor and food writer Maria Speck. Her "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" (Ten Speed Press) made The Washington Post food section's list of top 10 cookbooks for 2011. We've adapted this stew from the book.
To keep this weeknight meal running on schedule, look for semi-perlato (semi-pearled, hulled) farro, which cooks in 20 to 25 minutes, rather than whole-grain farro, which can take up to 70 minutes.
Pearled farro is available at grocery stores including Harris Teeter and online at EarthlyChoice.com.
Serve with a crusty bread for dunking into the stew.
2 or 3 servings<</em>
For the farro:
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup farro
1 small bay leaf
2 whole black peppercorns
Pinch fine sea salt
For the stew:
1 medium yellow onion
2 small carrots or 1 large carrot
2 ribs celery
2 or 3 medium cloves garlic
Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary, divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 bay leaves
1 small dried red chili pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine, divided
1 1/2 cups diced, no-salt-added tomatoes preferably Muir Glen No-Salt-Added Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes, plus their juices
1 1/2 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 pounds fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded (tap on any mussels that are chipped, cracked or slightly open; if they do not close, discard them)
Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
For the farro: Combine the water, farro, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt in a large saucepan over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, then cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the farro is tender yet still slightly chewy. Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaf and the peppercorns (if you can easily find them), and drain off any remaining liquid.
For the stew: While the farro is cooking, finely chop the onion to yield 1 cup. Peel and trim the carrots, then cut them crosswise into very thin slices, to yield 3/4 to 1 cup. Trim the celery, then cut it crosswise into very thin slices to yield 1 cup. Crush the garlic cloves. Mince the rosemary to yield 2 teaspoons.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, half of the minced rosemary, the bay leaves, the chili pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables start to soften.
Increase the heat to medium-high; add 1/4 cup of the wine and cook/boil for about 2 minutes, until the liquid is almost gone. Then stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the water, the remaining 1 1/4 cups of wine, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and black pepper to taste; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook (uncovered) for 5 minutes, so the carrots are crisp-tender. Stir in the sugar.
Add the mussels, the cooked farro and the remaining minced rosemary; once the mixture starts bubbling at the edges, cover tightly. Cook/steam for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pot to distribute the mussels for even cooking. Remove from the heat; uncover and discard any mussels that have not opened.
Cut 1 lemon in half, then squeeze the juice from both halves through your closed fingers (to keep seeds from falling into the pot). Cut the second lemon into wedges, for serving. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Discard the chili pepper, bay leaves and the garlic, if desired.
Coarsely chop the parsley. Divide the mussel stew and lemon wedges evenly among wide, shallow bowls, then sprinkle with parsley and drizzle some of the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over each portion.
Serve right away, with lemon wedges and discard bowls for the mussel shells.
Nutrition per serving (based on 3): 770 calories, 45g protein, 68g carbohydrates, 26g fat, 4g saturated fat, 85mg cholesterol, 1,420mg sodium, 8g dietary fiber, 11g sugar.