farro and tomato soup

I like cooking again. Thank goodness. It took a couple of months to adjust to having Emma around, but I think we're starting to understand each other. I've discussed this before, but after bringing her home in September, dinner lost a bit of its lustre. Sandwiches, breadcrumb pasta, ramen. Whatever took the least amount of time and didn't have to be eaten at any particular temperature. I'm still not preparing anything lavish, but we're working our way back.

Melissa Clark wrote a lovely piece in the New York Times recently that included recipes for a vegan dinner party. While I'm not vegan, I certainly limit the amount of meat I eat and am always searching for new vegetable-based dishes to try. This soup stood out immediately. It seemed comforting, flavorful and easy to make. Served with crusty bread, it's a soothing meal for a cold night.

I made this soup on a rainy afternoon. It was one of the first times in recent memory that I stood in the kitchen and actually connected to the act of rinsing, chopping and stirring. The leeks, garlic and tomatoes, each prepared with care. It felt how cooking is supposed to. Soothing, elemental, reflective.


A word to the ambitious: If you make this soup ahead of time, resist the urge to add the farro into the soup until ready to serve. If it sits for too long, the farro will continue absorbing all the liquid and you'll be forced to loosen everything with water and dilute the wonderful tomato flavor. Reserve the faro separate from the soup, then add it when you're ready to eat, letting it warm through on the stove for 10 minutes or so.

Recipe slightly adapted from Melissa Clark, New York Times

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more salt as needed
2 cups farro
3 large sprigs basil, stems and leaves separated
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges (I used 7 large tomatoes)

Add 8 cups of cold water and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt into a 4-quart oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat slightly, then add the farro, basil stems and cook until grains are tender but still a bit chewy, about 25 minutes. Drain, reserving all the liquid.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the leek and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the leeks are soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 cups reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer. Cook until the tomatoes have completely fallen apart, about 30 minutes. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth and return to the pot. In the same blender, pulse half the faro until chunky. (If making the soup ahead, reserve faro until ready to serve.)

Add both the whole and pureed faro into the soup pot. If the soup is too thick, add more cooking liquid (I used most of mine). Taste and add more salt if needed. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with oil and torn basil leaves. Serve with crusty bread.