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Farro and Beluga Lentil Pilaf with Ginger and Cilantro

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Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

  • by Anna Thomas from Fine Cooking
    Issue 109

Chewy farro and earthy lentils get a bright flavor boost from fresh ginger, cilantro, and rice vinegar in this satisfying vegetarian dish. Rice pilaf wishes it could be this delicious.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more for garnish
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 dried chiles de árbol, broken, seeds and stems discarded
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • Sea salt
  • 1-1/2 cups pearled or semi-pearled farro, rinsed
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
  • 3/4 cup dried beluga lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 medium red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 3/4 cup grated carrots (use the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar

Heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, chiles, bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook, stirring often, until the shallots begin to color, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the farro and thyme and continue to cook, stirring, until the farro smells nutty and makes a crackling sound, about 3 minutes more. Add the vegetable broth and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils, cover, and cook undisturbed until the farro is tender but chewy, the lentils are tender but firm, and nearly all of the liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the pilaf stand, covered, for at least 5 minutes.

While the pilaf is cooking, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring frequently, until limp and deeply browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, toss quickly until the onions are evenly coated, and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let the onions steam for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the scallions, carrots, cilantro, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Let sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Stir the onions and about three-quarters of the carrot mixture into the pilaf. Season to taste with salt.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the pilaf, garnish with the remaining carrot mixture, and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 170; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 1; Protein (g): 5; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4; Carbohydrates (g): 25; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 250; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Great pilaf! The farro has a nice chew and the lentils a subtle "pop". The flavors blend together very nicely and even my husband liked it. The only thing I will personally do different next time is leave out the sugar as the onions caramelized enough to sweeten it plenty. I made it almost exactly but subbed stevia for the sugar, and only at half. OH! Note the servings. This make a huge bowl of pilaf. I have enough to chow on for weeks. Guess I see how some of it freezes.

Excellent. Another winner from Fine Cooking. This pilaf has a wonderful complex taste. It does involve a bit of prep work but is so worth the effort. I also used small green French lentils and they worked just fine in place of the belugas. The recipe has written makes a large amount which is OK because it is even better the next day!

I made this yesterday to accompany sauteed lamb chops. The pilaf was absolutely delicious! Don't be frightened off by what looks to be a complex process. It's actually quite easy and the results are well worth it -- a real medley of flavours and textures. I used green lentils because I wasn't able to find the black beluga ones. They were really good -- just add them about 5 minutes later than described in the recipe.

This is beyond doubt the best pilaf recipe I have ever tried. It's over the top great. A perfect combination of flavors. If you can't find the beluga lentils, use the small green French, although the beluga are worth finding. If you don't need or want a vegetarian version, substituting low sodium chicken broth for the vegetable stock works just fine. This is a great recipe for company. We had it last night with rack of lamb and everyone raved about it.

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