Have you ever concocted a recipe in your head, absolutely sure that it would be wonderful? Has that recipe ever been a total flop? That’s what happened with my first go around on this one. I made it with orzo, traditional pesto, and topped it with a poached egg. The final dish was gummy and boring.
I persisted, and guess what? This version is really good – memorable even. I want you to make it! The changes you ask? Instead of orzo, farro, and then a zingy riff on traditional pesto; it has garlic, fresh basil and olive oil, but then exits the worn path with fresh lemon zest and juice, raw asparagus, pecorino cheese, almonds, and a tiny kick of crushed red pepper. For body, I added little spears of blanched asparagus, chunks of avocado, feta, and almond, then crowned it with a fried egg. Voila!
If you have a rice cooker with a timer, this is a good time to use it. Early in the day, add 1 cup farro (lightly toasted in a dry skillet if you like a nuttier flavor), 2 cups water, pinch of salt and a swirl of olive oil; set the timer for your dinnertime. This way the farro has time to soak before cooking and is waiting when you’re ready to assemble the dish. Otherwise, I’ve included the stove top directions – just remember that you’ll need 25 to 40 minutes for the farro to cook.
Farro with Asparagus Pesto, Avocado & Fried Egg
Don’t feel tied to farro here – many whole grains would work well: wheat berries, kamut, quinoa, barley. Some of these cook faster too if you’re pinched for time. Also keep in mind that this dish doesn’t need to be piping hot, except for the egg. The farro mixture is very good at room temperature.
1 cup dry farro
2 cloves garlic
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
3 ounces toasted almonds, chopped, divided
2 ounces grated pecorino cheese
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut in 2″ pieces, divided
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for farro and egg frying)
1 avocado, cut in bite size chunks
2 ounces feta, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper
To cook the farro, combine with 2 cups of water in a pot. Add a sprinkle of salt and a swirl of olive oil; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for at least 25 and up to 40 minutes, until grains are tender and have absorbed all of the water.
Meanwhile, set a medium pot of water on to boil (for the asparagus) and make the pesto. With a food processor or blender running, add the garlic, crushed red pepper, basil, all but a small handful of the almonds, pecorino cheese, and 1/2 cup raw asparagus pieces; process to a coarse paste. Add lemon zest and juice, and the olive oil; process until smooth. Add salt to taste. Set aside.
Add asparagus to medium pot of boiling water and blanch just until bright green and crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain.
In a large serving bowl combine farro, pesto, and asparagus; gently stir to combine. Divide between four serving plates. Divide avocado, feta, and remaining almonds among the four plates, sprinkling them over the top.
For the fried eggs, heat a cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or more of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Crack the eggs one by one into the pan, try to give each one its own space. Let the eggs fry, undisturbed, until the whites are set and the outer edges are barely browning. (Flip if you prefer your yolks cooked through) Season eggs with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crown each serving plate with a fried egg and serve immediately.