Recipe: Warm Farro Salad with Artichokes, Caciotta, and Spring Garlic
I’m always on the lookout for Italian products made in this country by people who have the heart and dedication to follow artisanal Italian tradition. Dancing Ewe Farms, started in 2003, is a dairy and cheese maker in upstate New York that produces Tuscan-style cheeses the way they’re done in Tuscany, from the farm’s raw milks, with no pasteurization and no preservatives. The cheeses are handcrafted every step of the way. You can taste it, for sure, but you can even see it. The rinds are beautifully hued and rustic.
Dancing Ewe Farm’s cheeses, at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan.
For months I was eyeing Jody and Luisa Somers, the couple who own Dancing Ewe, and their rounds of cheeses whenever I went to the Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays. I’d sort of just stand around their stall, acting like I didn’t know what I was doing. A few months ago I finally made a purchase (I’m not sure at all what took me so long). I bought a container of their sheep’s milk ricotta and a small chunk of mildly aged pecorino (they also make a younger pecorino). The ricotta was beautifully rich, and the pecorino was aged just enough to develop deep flavor but not so much that it turned throat-grabbing sharp. I went back a few weeks later to pick up their caciotta, a cow’s milk cheese, and misto, a mix of cow’s and sheep’s milk. I was really impressed. The texture is just as it should be, firm but with a solid tenderness, the color is golden, and the cheeses all have a tempting, tangy aroma, with a whiff of the animals that made them possible. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Jody Somers had studied cheese making in Tuscany, and I’m also not surprised to learn that they sell to Babbo and to Daniel. You can also find their cheeses at Murray’s and Whole Foods.
I wanted to develop a recipe to show off one of these cheeses, so I turned to Tuscany for inspiration. I chose as my base ingredient farro, the nutty whole grain so loved in Central Italy, and then added artichokes and a few other spring flavors such as fresh spring garlic and lots of herbs, throwing them in at the last minute so they stayed really fresh. Then I topped it all off with shavings of their caciotta cheese. This recipe is dedicated to the efforts of Dancing Ewe Farm. Keep up the great work.
You can check out their website at www.dancingewe.com.
Fresh garlic from the Union Square Greenmarket.
Warm Farro Salad with Artichokes, Caciotta, and Spring Garlic
(Serves 4 0r 5)
1½ cups farro
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and then cut in half
4 globe artichokes
1 small spring onion, diced, using some of the tender green stalk
2 small carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
A small section from a stalk of spring garlic, thinly sliced, using some of the tender green part
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ cup chicken broth
8 large sprigs of fresh thyme, the leaves lightly chopped
A handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, very lightly chopped
¼ pound caciotta cheese by Dancing Ewe Farms, or grana Padano cheese
Set up a medium-size pot of water, and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt, and drop in the farro. Cook, uncovered, until it’s tender, about 12 to 14 minutes (it should start to swell, but taste-test a piece to make sure it’s tender but with a bit of a bite). Drain the farro, and place it in a serving bowl. Drizzle on a little olive oil, and give it a toss.
Set up a bowl of cold water, and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Drop the lemon halves into the water. Pull off all the tough outer leaves from the artichokes, and trim the tough ends of the stems, leaving most of the stem on. Peel the stems. Cut off about a half inch from the tops of the artichokes, and then cut them into quarters, lengthwise. Cut out the chokes from each artichoke piece with a small knife. Drop the pieces into the lemon water as you go.
Set up a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and carrot, and sauté for a minute or so, just to soften it. Drain the artichoke pieces, and add them to the skillet along with the garlic. Season with salt and black pepper, and sauté until everything is fragrant and beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the white wine, and let it bubble for about a minute or so. Add the chicken broth, and get it bubbling. Partially cover the pan, turn the heat down a touch, and let it simmer until the artichokes are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Pour the artichokes with all their pan juices over the farro. Add the lemon zest, the thyme, and the parsley, and toss gently. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, black pepper, or a squeeze of lemon juice if needed.
To serve, divide the farro up onto serving plates and shave a few big slices of Caciotta over each one. Serve warm.