I love a culinary surprise. A new ingredient. An unusual flavor. An exotic fragrance rising from the stove, filling the kitchen, permeating the entire house with the lure of simmering promise. Surprises sometimes come in familiar packages, though. A combination of standard items that I never before had imagined juxtaposing together. This recipe, the instant I read it, sounded wonderful. Odd, but wonderful. Farro, with….. anise? And grapes? Three ingredients not usually found together, in my experience. But thanks to Maria Speck, the possibility suddenly existed. I prepared the recipe immediately, making just a few changes.
The resulting dish was as tasty as I had hoped. Paulo and I, we love our oatmeal, but this farro is something altogether different. Creamy like oatmeal, yes, with a similar nutty grain goodness. But instead of standard cinnamon or nutmeg, the lovely and subtle flavor of anise, almost more a scent than a taste, permeates the dish. And rather than raisins or bits of dried apple serving as accents, plump grapes, gilded with honey, burst with juicy freshness. Farro with anise and grapes may seem odd, but together they create a meal that (nearly) rivals the oatmeal.
Creamy Farro with Honey-Roasted Grapes
1 cup farro
1 tsp anise seeds
1 3″ cinnamon stick
3/4 lb red, purple, or black grapes
1 tsp olive oil
3 T honey
2/3 cup cream (or non-dairy cream or coconut milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
In a saucepan combine 2 cups of water, the farro, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, and 3/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently, covered, until the farro is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid and discard the cinnamon stick.
While the farro is simmering, place an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler. Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes. Toss the grapes with the oil, and then with 1 1/2 T of the honey. Spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Broil until the grape skins start to shrivel and burst, and the grapes begin to release some juice, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
After draining the excess liquid from the farro, add the cream and vanilla. Boil briefly, stirring frequently, until the cream thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 T of honey. Fold in the grapes with their juices, along with the walnuts. Serve warm, with additional honey and cream for drizzling, if you wish.