Spelt (“farro” in Italian) is an ancient grain. Its origins go back to almost 5000 years ago to Middle East. Romans used spelt flour for making a kind of crackers for their long voyages. Some ancient tribes of Italy considered it sacred and used it in offerings to gods of harvest and fertility. My approach to spelt is less pious: I just love to eat it in different forms and shapes. Here I want to share one of my favourites among many Italian recipes. It was inspired by a summer Tuscan salad from the mountainous region of Garfagnana. In Tuscany it is made with mozzarella, mint, olives and cannelini beans. I don’t use those and my salad is lighter yet as Mediterranean as it could be. Now is the perfect time to find fresh green beans, sweet Piccadilly tomatoes and green onions, so this dish will be a great seasonal treat.
Serves 4 people
250 g spelt grains
100 g green beans trimmed and chopped in pieces 1 cm long
6 ripe Cherry or Piccadilly tomatoes finely chopped
one fresh green onion with a large white bulb or 4-5 smaller scallions (use only the whit part) finely chopped
1/4 apple finely chopped (Granny Smith or other sweet-tart variety)
4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme and oregano
3 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
Cook the spelt in a pot with water for 35-40 minutes. I use local farro grains (incredibly tasty!), so they take longer to cook. If you are using spelt bought in a shop follow the instructions in the pack. Put the green beans in a pot with cold water and cook for 15-20 minutes. I like my green beans crunchy, if you prefer them soft leave them to boil for 25-30 minutes. Drain both the spelt and the beans and leave to cool for up to 40 minutes. The salad is also lovely slightly warm, in this case the spelt doesn’t need to be cooled down for so long.
Add the cooled green beans, tomatoes, onion, apple, herbs, lemon zest to the spelt. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.