If you follow this blog regularly you know that I love posting traditional recipes from my family. A lot of people enjoy these recipes just as much as I do, especially for those who swear by the Mediterranean diet, but I often get questions about “tweaking” the recipe for the extra health-conscious: can I bake instead of fry? Can I replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat? Can I reduce the sugar?
I ask readers to let me know, if they give the recipe a twist, how it works out. One of my more popular posts on this blog is spelt pasta, which started as an experiment in my own kitchen. Today I’m asking you how you’ve adapted traditional dishes to meet dietary needs for a chance to win a new cookbook! (keep reading….)
The thing with traditional recipes is that they don’t change much. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done though. Recently, Fina Scroppo, an editor and writer, shared her new book with me “The Healthy Italian: cooking for the love of food and family,” a cookbook that puts alternative spins on Italian classics. I’ll admit, I may have been a bit skeptical (can you really put quinoa in eggplant parmesan?), but the only way to really know if these new recipes work, is to try them.
One of Fina’s recipes immediately spoke to me: farro risotto. First, it uses a whole grain (farro) which draws in a lot of questions from readers each time I write about it (and I’ve become a bit obsessed about myself). Secondly, it’s made creamy not by the starch typically found in the classic risotto arborio rice, but from goat cheese, which is one of my favourite ingredients. Fina tells the story about how her family had to find alternatives to Italian recipes when her sister was diagnosed with celiac disease. For me, I had to make two more little adjustments: the original recipe called for asparagus which is not seasonal right now (a big part of Italian eating), so I used squash instead and I used whole grain farro instead of semi-pearled as I don’t mind the extra chewiness. If you are new to farro, or prefer the consistency of rice, use the semi-pearled type.
The result was a creamy, extremely tasty dish that offered no guilt after you devour the whole bowl full. Enjoy the recipe – and if you want to try Fina’s recipes yourself, here’s your chance: Enter to win “The Healthy Italian: cooking for the love of food and family,” by telling me how you’ve adapted a traditional family recipe for dietary or health reasons in the comments. A winner will be selected at random at midnight on November 22. Good luck!
Farro Risotto (from “The Healthy Italian”)
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
3 1/2 cubes reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp light butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups semi-pearl farro (spelt grain, also called emmer)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp crumbled light goat cheese
2 tbsp each fresh parsley and fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving (optional)
Prepare your vegetables: peel and cub your butternut squash, dice the onion and chop the garlic. In a medium pot, heat broth over medium heat and keep hot.
In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onions are softened about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the squash and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Add farro and stir continuously to coat, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until almost completely absorbed, stirring continuously. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Add hot broth slowly, one ladle at a time to allow liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Stir continuously for about 20 or 25 minutes or until farro is al dente and chewy.
Stir in goat’s cheese, parsley and basil. Serve hot with sea salt, black pepper and a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese, if desired.
Remember: enter to win “The Health Italian: Cooking for the love of food and family,” by telling me how you’ve adapted a traditional family recipe for dietary or health reasons in the comments. A winner will be selected at random at midnight on November 22. Good luck!
We have a winner: Congratulations Lina!
Using Random.org, Lina is the winner of “The Healthy Italian” – check your email for details.
Thanks everyone for participating and sharing their healthy alternatives with us. I’ll be using some of the tips in my own cooking! Pick up your own copy of “The Healthy Italian” at all Chapters Indigo locations, Costco, and online at Chapters.ca and Amazon.ca.