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Go to El Rey in the Lower East Side and make yourself at home, because it actually feels and looks like home. Or at least I always feel that way when I’m there. It feels like a mix of Mexico City, Tulum, and LA.

Everyone that works there has the coolest chillest vibe; it’s actually pretty refreshing. So stop there if you happen to be in downtown Manhattan and have a break from the hectic cold days of  New York.

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And have a coffee.

DSCF9286I went to El Rey a few days ago and had a chat with Gerardo, the head chef, about my favorite dish there: the farro bowl.

It’s actually called Grains & Crudite Salad on the menu and it consists of farro,toasted pecans, kale salad, shaved raw vegetables, beet pickled egg, avocado, and lemon vinaigrette

He gave me the full INSIDE SCOOP of this amazing heart warming dish.

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Let’s talk about farro, and why I love it so much.

  1. It has a distinctive roasted, nutty flavor and chewy texture that’s very satisfying.
  2. It’s the easiest grain to cook (just like quinoa).
  3. It’s the original ancestor of all other wheat species and resembles a plumper barley grain.. Known as the “pharaoh’s wheat”, it originated in Egypt centuries ago. During their occupation of Egypt, ancient Roman legions carried farro in their rations because of its nutritious properties, and they even used as a form of currency. It was a staple food in Ancient Rome and today this Old World heirloom grain is still highly regarded in Italy, where it has been grown for generations by Tuscan farmers. 

DSCF92964. The reason why farro is not as popular as wheat is because its tough husk makes it more difficult to process than other commercially produced grains, which at the same time helps protect the grain’s vital nutrients, making it a VERY NUTRITIOUS GRAIN. Farro is exceptionally high in protein for a grain (higher than wheat and quinoa) and supplies more than 10 different vitamins and minerals. It is very high in fiber (contains more fiber than rice or even quinoa) which means that farro might have even more positive benefits when it comes to digestion and cardiovascular health, it’s very low in calories, and especially rich in magnesium and B vitamins. Compared to Quinoa, farro contains less fat and more calcium. 

  • High in iron: A cup of farro contains 24% of the recommended daily intake for iron.
  • The Chill Pill: Farro is packed with minerals including magnesium which helps relieve tension, AND menstrual cramps.
  • NOT GLUTEN FREE:

Even though farro DOES contain gluten, there’s an important difference between eating ancient forms of unprocessed wheat grains (like farro, einkorn and barley) compared to popular refined types of wheat often eaten in the U.S. Farro actually contains lower levels than today’s wheat, and if prepared properly, the gluten is pre-digested and broken down by sprouting and fermentation like a sourdough process. This makes it much more tolerable with anyone sensitive to gluten.

Conclusion: Farro is an excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium and iron, thus it’s a big step up from using white rice or other refined grains in your favorite dishes.

DSCF9298DSCF9305Ok.. now you must be wondering exactly WHAT to do with farro.

According to Gerardo, THIS is the way to prepare farro:

“Simply toss it with salt, olive oil, lemon and toasted pecans in order to highlight the nutty flavor of the grain.”

Farro is a soft grain that only needs to be cooked for 30 min (just like pasta)

  • Rinse and drain farro. Place in a pot and add enough water or stock to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes. Drain off any excess water. DONE!
  • Toast pecans in oven at 320’F for 10 min. Once toasted, chop them in inconsistent sizes (big chunk and fine ones)  so that when you toss the pecans  with the farro, the powdery parts of the pecans will coat the grain.
  • Add toasted coconut flakes
  • Add some lemon vinaigrette, consisting of 20% lemon 80% olive oil, and salt. The acid from the lemon brings out the nuttiness of the farro.
  • Add a pinch of ground black sesame
  • Toss toss toss!
  • Add watercress.

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At El Rey, Gerardo mixes the farro with some watercress and then serves it with kale salad dressed in almond dressing, cabbage seasoned with rice vinegar, watermelon radish, fennel dressed in Chimichurri sauce, avocado, and beet pickled egg.  SO GOOD.

DSCF9331DSCF9333DSCF9339 DSCF9345The secret for the red cabbage is to massage it with RICE VINEGAR and salt first.

DSCF9344DSCF9348Gerardo tosses the fennel with his signature CHIMICHURRI sauce, which he also then pours over the avocado and egg.

Ingredients in Chimichurri sauce:

  • tarragon
  • parsley
  • mint
  • garlic
  • red onion
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice

~ Blend in Vitamix (or any other blender)  and just make sure to add the olive oil slowly at the end with the blender tunning on low to emulsify.

DSCF9378-2DSCF9384-2Use a microplane to shave almonds and sprinkle on top for a vegan parmesan cheese option.DSCF9358-2Special tip: sprinkle lemon zest and smoked salt over the egg and avocado.

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Of course add avocado…

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and… TA DAAAA!! The most amazing FARRO BOWL EVER.

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Thanks, Gerardo!

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