Farro Cakes with Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce
Although it might seem like a trendy newcomer to the culinary scene, farro is actually quite ancient. Long beloved as a rustic staple in Italy, farro is prized for its nutty flavor, versatility, and appealing chew. It looks a little like brown rice with a texture, once cooked, reminiscent of barley.
Pearled, Semi-Pearled, and Whole
The term “whole” applies to grains with both the bran and germ intact, which is where most of the nutrients and fiber lie. Therefore, I’m taking liberties using the term for farro, since the most common varieties — semi-pearled and pearled — have some or all of the bran removed. Still, farro remains a nourishing (and tasty) choice, particularly semi-pearled, the more nutritious of the two. It’s also worth noting that while not gluten-free, farro is notably lower in gluten than conventional wheat.
A Versatile Grain
Like so many grains, farro is immensely versatile. If it’s new to your kitchen, I recommend you make up a batch to keep in the fridge for experimenting (you’ll find a “how to” in the headnote of the recipe below). As for what to do with farro, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Warm it with milk and top with nuts, seeds, and fresh or dried fruit along with a drizzle of maple syrup for a satisfying hot cereal.
- Scramble with eggs and greens for a hearty breakfast or lunch.
- Add to warming winter soups or stews much like you would rice or barley.
- Combine with your favorite beans for a vegetarian main course.
- Swap it out for arborio rice as in this Oven Farro Risotto with Asparagus.
- Toss into hearty vegetable or green salads to add texture and heft.
An Inventive Way to Use Farro
Hot cereal and grain salads aside, if you are going to make anything with farro, make Zucchini Farro Cakes from the talented Megan Gordon. Megan is a master of whole grains, having started the Marge Granola company and authored the just-published cookbook Whole Grain Mornings, which features inspiring and inventive ideas, from Coconut Quinoa Porridge to Blueberry Breakfast Bars. Plus, the book generously shares the prized Marge granola recipe….practically worth the price tag alone.
In Whole Grain Mornings, Megan does up her farro cakes rather elegantly for a weekend brunch alongside slow roasted tomatoes and herbed goat cheese. I decided to simplify matters for a weeknight supper by pairing them with a Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce that takes all of five minutes to pull together.
Farro Cakes with Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce
- 3 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 pound or 3 medium)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
- 2 cups cooked and cooled farro (see notes)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 3 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 cup whole grain bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour, whole wheat flour, or whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 cloves garlic. minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
In a bowl, toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and set aside for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain by squeezing the zucchini in a cheesecloth or a fine-weave kitchen towel. When finished, you should be left with about 1 1/2 cups of relatively dry shredded zucchini.
In a large bowl, combine the farro, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, green onions, parsley, thyme, bread crumbs, flour, garlic, and zucchini. Stir well and let stand for 5 minutes. Knead the mixture a few times in the bowl with your hands, then form 3-inch patties about 3/4-inch thick, and place them on a plate or baking sheet to await cooking.
Line a large plate with paper towels. Pour the olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and almost shimmering, put 4 of the patties in the pan and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook the second side for 3 to 4 minutes. Place the cooked cakes on the lined plate to drain off any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding a little extra oil as needed between batches if the cakes begin to stick to the pan.
To make the yogurt sauce, in a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt until creamy.
Serve a spoonful of yogurt sauce alongside the warm farro cakes
One cup of uncooked farro will yield more than enough cooked farro required for this recipe. Any leftover farro is excellent tossed into a salad, eaten with vegetables, or as a breakfast grain with dried fruits, nuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Recipe adapted and printed with permission from Megan Gordon from Whole Grain Mornings (Ten Speed Press, 2014)