When Spring arrives and the Vernal Equinox does it's equinox-ing (that's probably not a word but roll with me on this one), I'm anxious for all things spring -- bright green buds on trees, flowers blooming, and bright blue skies. Unfortunately, the weather doesn't really seem aware of the calendar so, though Wednesday was the first day of Spring, it was blustery as mid winter around these parts.
Even so, there are hints of what's to come -- the earliest of early strawberries, a few pea shoots doing their thing, and some of the babiest of baby potatoes and carrots. This farro risotto is most delicious with those first, freshest, tenderest of tender baby carrots -- anything else is a disservice. To some this is farro, to some a risotto, to others still a farrotto, but I'm not one for semantics -- it's farro, carrots, cumin, and Parmesan simmered together and it screams Spring, even if the first of Spring is still a far cry away.
(about 12 ounces)
about 1 tablespoon of juice
about 1 cup
Place all broth in a small saucepan and warm over very low heat. Grate 1/4 of the carrots on the small holes of a box grater (or using the disc attachment for your food processor). Cut remaining carrots into a 1/4-inch dice and puree with the carrot juice until very smooth (at least 30 seconds). Set aside until ready to use.
Melt butter and heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large 4-to-6-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion, cumin, and grated carrots, season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the grains and stir to coat in the mixture and cook until it starts to make a crackly sound. Add wine and cook until alcohol smell is cooked off, at least 2 minutes.
If using pearled farro, it will cook even faster than semi-pearled and will likely require only 3 cups of the broth. Cook until the grain is al dente but cooked through.
Decrease heat to medium-low, stir in carrot puree and cook until bubbly. Add 1 cup broth and simmer, stirring, until stock is nearly absorbed. Continue adding the broth one cup at a time and stirring occasionally, until the broth is absorbed (it should be at a low simmer the whole time adjust heat as needed). Continue adding broth until it is almost all absorbed and the grain is al dente (firm but not chalky) and the risotto is a porridge-like consistency with a creamy-looking sauce, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Taste the grain to make sure it is cooked through and tender. If not, add 1 cup more liquid and cook until almost completely absorbed. Add olive oil, lemon juice, season, as desired with salt and freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 tsp each), cover and set aside to rest a few minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in cheese, half of the chives or parsley (if using) and lemon zest, then taste and adjust seasoning.
Divide risotto among serving bowls, drizzle with olive oil, add freshly ground black pepper, top with remaining chives or parsley or a spoonful of pesto and serve.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp