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Author Notes: This is a very simplified version/adaptation of the barley risotto with marinated feta recipe in Jerusalem. I encourage you to look up the original if you want to give this the real Ottolenghi treatment.
The changes I have made can be summarized as follows:
I omit the butter and use olive oil exclusively. I omit the celery and use 1 onion in place of the shallots. I use farro in place of barley, only because I typically have it on hand. In place of the canned chopped tomatoes AND passata, I use one box of crushed tomatoes — my favorite brand is in one of the photos in the slideshow above. I can find it at Whole Foods and ShopRite. The brand is Simpson Imports, which isn't so clear by its label/branding.
I also use water in place of stock. I don't marinate the feta, which allows me to omit the caraway seeds and fresh oregano. And I add finely chopped greens, kale or chard, which I think add a lot of flavor and substance to the dish.
Clearly, this is a dish that can be adapted to taste and ingredients at hand. —Alexandra Stafford
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped, to yield a heaping cup
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup pearled farro
- 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 strips of lemon peel
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 26-oz box or 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, see notes above
- 3 cups water
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 5 ounces kale or chard, leaves removed from stems, finely chopped (about 4 packed cups)
- 6 ounces feta, preferably in brine, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan or pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and garlic, reduce the heat to medium, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
- Add the farro, the thyme, smoked paprika, and chile flakes, and cook for one minute or until the grains are coated in the spices. Add the bay leaf, lemon peel, crushed tomatoes, and 3 cups of water. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so the mixture is gently simmering, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every so often to ensure the farro isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. When ready, the farro should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed. Taste. If your crushed tomatoes contain salt, you might not have to add much here. I consistently add about a teaspoon of kosher salt, but I like salt, so adjust to taste. (Note: you may need to add water to thin it out at the end — each time I've made this, I've thinned it out with an additional cup of water, added incrementally.)
- When the farro is cooked, remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and lemon peel, and discard. Stir in half of the greens until they wilt. Add water if the mixture gets too thick. Add the remaining greens and stir until they wilt. Gently fold in the cubes of feta. Season with fresh cracked pepper. Taste and adjust as needed.