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Piccolo Farrotto

  • September 13, 2016

 If you’re not already familiar with Anson Mills, you should be. I first heard of them on a trip to Charleston last year when I bought a package of grits at a farmers’ market there. It’s a company founded on the premise of bringing quality flavors from heritage grains back to the forefront of American palates.

I was really impressed when I first tried their grits last year and wrote a post about shrimp ‘n grits here. In the last few months I’ve have had the opportunity to try several other of Anson Mills’ products, due to a generous gift sent to us by our friends Ken and Cathy, who live in South Carolina. The package contained everything from white rice, to red beans to polenta. Even the white rice, which you’d think would be standard fare, was exceptionally good.
I was really curious to try the farro piccolo, which looks like a stubbier version of farro. Most farro sold commercially has been “pearled,” reducing its cooking time. The trouble is, it also removes the bran layer, where all the flavor is, leaving nothing but pure starch. Anson Mills does not remove the bran layer, but in order to speed up cooking time (which can take up two hours for farro), it suggests a very clever technique, which I followed. You simply place the grains in a food processor and pulse for a few minute, in order to crack the bran layer.
It works beautifully, but don’t expect the farro to cook as quickly as minute rice. It will still take from 45 minutes to an hour to cook, but it’s so worth the effort to achieve the creamy, flavorful dish you’ll want to eat over and over.
Anson Mills’ website has lots of recipes using their products and I adapted one of them here, adding a few ingredients of my own, including part of this round zucchini from my garden.
Mince everything and sauté in some butter and olive oil.
I had some roasted red pepper so I added that in too.
I don’t have a photo to show you of the grains being stirred in, but if you’ve ever made risotto, you’ll cook it similar to that, adding the grains and some broth, a little at a time.
As a reward for your patience, you’ll end up with a hearty, delicious and packed-with-nutrients-meal that tastes nothing like the “pearled” farro in supermarkets. It’s so good, you’ll wish you had an endless bowl.
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Piccolo Farrotto
(recipe adapted from Anson Mills)
printable recipe here

6 ounces (1 cup) Anson Mills Farro Piccolo
1 quart chicken stock (or beef stock or vegetable stock)
1.25 ounces (2 1/2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 T. olive oil
1 large shallot, minced (3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 bay leaf
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced zucchini
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, cut into bits
2 ounces (1/2 cup) finely grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

    1. Turn the farro into a food processor and give it ten 1-second pulses to crack some of the bran that encases the grains. Transfer it to a small bowl.
    2. Bring the stock to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and keep the stock just below a simmer as you cook the farro. If you need more liquid at the end, use hot water.
    3. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, celery and zucchini and cook until softened somewhat. They will continue to cook with the farro, so don’t cook them fully now. Add the red pepper and the farro, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the grains are hot and coated with butter, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced to a glaze. Add the bay leaf and 1 cup of hot stock and stir once to make sure the grains are covered with liquid. Cook the farro, uncovered, at the barest simmer; when the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed and the farro begins to look dry, add another ½ cup of hot stock, stir once, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the farro once again begins to look dry. Cook the farro in this fashion for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add stock as needed, until the grains have expanded and are tender throughout, about 20 minutes longer.
  1. Stir in the Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. The farrotto should look creamy, not wet or soupy. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately.

Shrimp ‘N Grits

  • June 20, 2016

 OK, I may not be a Southerner and I may not have grown up with grits in my veins, but grits and polenta are just about the same thing. There are slight differences, but both are made from stone-ground cornmeal – dried corn that’s ground into smaller, coarser bits. 

According to a piece that ran on National Public Radio, Glen Roberts, founder of Anson Mills, says that Southern grits and Italian polenta are traditionally made from two very different types of corn, and there’s a difference in the fineness of the grind and how many times it’s milled.
Well, that may be true, but it gets complicated when you see so many different types of polenta for sale in Italy, from fine ground to coarse, and even polenta mixed with buckwheat, called polenta “taragna.”
Adding to the confusion is the myriad variety of grits available here in the states.
My instinct (and Italian heritage) almost always leads me to reach for polenta instead of grits. But on a trip to Charlestown last year, I bought a bag of grits at a farmer’s market, milled at Anson Mills.
What else to do with them, but make the ubiquitous shrimp and grits, found at myriad restaurants, diners and mom and pop cafes throughout the South.


The grits would be delicious on their own, with just a dab of butter, but I gussied them up and “Italianized” them with some mascarpone and parmesan.
Warning – you won’t be able to stop eating this. So save it as a splurge after a week of good behavior!
Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day. You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.

Shrimp ‘N Grits

1 cup grits
4 cups water
(Keep adding more as it gets drier)
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup parmesan
1 tsp salt
Mix the grits with the water over medium heat. I always use cold water and dump all the grits in at once. I find that helps keep out the lumps. Keep stirring and lower the heat somewhat – it may take 45 minutes to end up with really good, really creamy grits. If it looks like the mixture is getting too dense or too dry, add more water, a little at a time. Add the salt and keep stirring. After about 35-45 minutes, the grits will start to look creamier. To gild the lily, add the cream, mascarpone and parmesan.
18 medium Shrimp
3T Olive oil
Herbs, oregano, thyme, parsley
2 cloves garlic
Red pepper flakes
Clean the shrimp and mix the olive oil with the herbs, garlic, paprika and red pepper flakes. Let the shrimp marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Grill the shrimp, but just until almost done. They’ll cook a little longer with other ingredients. Remove the shrimp from the grill and set aside. (Use a grill pan or the broiler if you don’t have an outdoor grill)
1/4 cup green pepper, minced
1 T olive oil
2 strips bacon
Sauté green pepper in oil until softened. Remove. Add bacon, cut in bits. Cook until crispy.
Add green pepper back in and after shrimp is grilled, add it to the peppers and bacon. Turn up heat to high. Add the white wine and let it reduce just a bit, then add 1 tablespoon of butter.
Pour shrimp mixture over grits and serve with a sprinkle of parsley or basil over all.