Spring Farro Risotto with Lemon and Tahini
Howdy ho, party people! I hope you all enjoyed the first weekend of spring!
We had family staying in the city so we took them out for brunch at Greens Restaurant (where I tried pupusas for the first time- holy yum) and then eventually made our way to the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park. I was hoping the cherry blossoms would still be in bloom but unfortunately the majority of the foliage was dried up and barren. It was just another reminder of how badly we need the rain.
On a positive note, it seems as though most of the local farmers have done their part to prepare for the drought because our spring produce came a little early this year! I spotted the first beautiful bundle of bright green asparagus as the market several weeks ago and I decided it would make a delicious addition to this lemon-tahini farro risotto.
Obviously this is not your typical risotto in that it doesn’t involve wine or cheese. I know, I feel like I’m committing a crime or something!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good traditional risotto but I really wanted to try a lighter version and also make something that was vegan friendly. The beauty of this version is that uses whole grain farro which is a nutritional powerhouse that’s high in protein, fiber, magnesium and B vitamins. In addition, it has a nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture that makes a delightful stand-in for arborio rice.
The trick to making this dish taste so good without using cheese or wine is to add the lemon-tahini dressing to the farro while it’s still nice and hot. This allows it to absorb the flavors of the lemon and the garlic while still leaving behind the creamy texture from the tahini.
Adding roasted asparagus, chickpeas and mushrooms gives the whole thing a nice mix of textures and also makes it satisfying and nutritious enough for dinner or to pack for lunches during the week.
If you do decide to make it for dinner, I’m sure it would still pair very nicely with a glass of crisp white wine on the side. Feel free to save the cheese for another night though because you won’t need it with this!
1 and 1/2 cups dry farro, soaked*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot
2 and 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bunch asparagus, chopped (approx. 2 cups)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon Tahini Dressing
3 tablespoons tahini
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons water
- Prepare the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor and blending until smooth.
- Next preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place the asparagus, chickpeas, and mushrooms on the sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil then sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile warm one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the farro then add it to the skillet and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt then stir. Allow it to toast for 5 minutes then add 2 1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Continue to stir intermittently until all of the water is absorbed and the farro is cooked through and tender, for about 25 minutes.
- Once farro is cooked, transfer it to a large bowl and pour in the lemon tahini dressing. Stir together until it is evenly coated then toss in the roasted veggies and mix until combined. Serve warm or allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
*Soaking the farro is optional but recommended for better digestion and absorption of nutrients. I usually soak it overnight in a large bowl covered with at least 3 inches of filtered water. If you would like to skip this step, add an additional 1 cup of water when cooking the farro. It may also take a little longer to cook.