A versatile dish you can serve many ways, even vegan! Just don’t forget the saffron.
Spanish flavors. The gorgeous smoked paprika, all the tasty peppers, tomatoes, olives, saffron of course. Saffron has a special place in my heart.
An expensive spice
My brother Floyd was a talented cook, and he adored saffron as much as I do. During our leaner youthful years, saffron at $10 a pop for a tiny tin was a splurge indeed, making a bit dent in the grocery budget, but was a great gift, so we treated each other.
Who’s the boss?
On his birthday in January, I would give him a little tin of saffron for his present, and he would thank me but let me know we were “the same age” so I couldn’t boss him around any more. On my birthday, a month and a half later, he would give me saffron, and of course I let him know I was once again older than him so I could boss him around. We always laughed. Silly, but it was our thing, and continued for decades, even when we could well afford the saffron splurge on our own.
Make it last
Sadly, I lost him at way too young an age a few years ago. I have the last tin he gave me before he passed away, and I hoard this gold like a miser. If I am frugal with it, I will make it last a good long time, so he’s always contributing to my our family celebrations, especially when one of his daughters is here for the meal.
Everyone can be pleased
This dish has many of the ingredients he loved, especially the shrimp. I’ve chosen toasted farro here because of the lovely, nutty flavor and chewy texture, and I highly recommend it. We use it all the time, but you can use any grain of your choice, or even pasta as well! This is all about what you like. Don’t care for shrimp? Scallops, or any firm fish cut into cubes would work as well, or no seafood at all.
Of course you can make it vegetarian!
You can easily make this vegetarian as well by adding extra artichokes, perhaps a meaty mushroom in place of the shrimp, substitute vegetable stock, and omit the anchovies. It’s delightful! Use whatever peppers you love, are the poblanos in season? Do you have a glut of sweet banana peppers?
This is a great dish to make for a dinner party. Everything can be prepped ahead of time, and finished off in the time it takes to cook the farro and nibble on a few appetizers.
Just don’t forget the saffron. It’s the secret and absolute best ingredient, especially if it was a gift.
Spanish Shrimp and Artichokes over Toasted Farro
- 1 lb. medium wild shrimp, save shells for stock
- 1 cup farro, well rinsed
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can or jar artichoke hearts, halved
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 cup, packed, sliced sweet mini bell peppers
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 4 anchovy filets and a bit of the oil
- 6 or 8 pimento stuffed green Spanish olives
- Large pinch of saffron, with a few threads from a special tin
- 1 tbsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 tbsp. fresh oregano, or 1 tsp. dried
- White wine to deglaze
- 1 cup shrimp stock, from shells
- 1 lemon
Peel and devein the shrimp and place the shells in a saucepan. Cover the shells with a few cups of water, pinch of salt and pepper, a bay leaf, and a shake of sweet paprika. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, then set aside for another 10 minutes and strain.
While shells are simmering, pat the shrimp dry, lightly salt and sprinkle with a little of the smoked paprika and salt, and place in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.
Lightly toast the farro in a dry skillet. Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, and add the farro. Reduce the heat to keep it at a low boil. Stir now and then like you would pasta. The farro will take a half hour or more to cook, more than enough time to prep everything else. Start tasting at 30 minutes and cook until it is the texture you want.
In a large sauté pan over medium high, heat olive oil and add the shrimp. Sauté until just starting to pink. Remove from the pan and set aside covered. Place the artichoke hearts cut-side down in the pan to let them get a little color. Remove to the shrimp plate. Cover.
Add a drizzle more oil and the onion and peppers to the same pan, and lightly season. Cook until the vegetables are tender, then stir in the garlic, tomato paste, anchovies, anchovy oil, olives, saffron, and paprika. Cook a minute or so, then deglaze the pan with the wine, and stir until the wine has just about evaporated. Add 1 cup of the shrimp stock, the oregano, and let simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the shrimp and artichokes back in the pot to reheat and finish cooking.
Drain the farro and place in a serving bowl. Top with the shrimp mixture, garnish with a bit more fresh oregano, a little drizzle more of olive oil, and a nice squeeze of fresh lemon.
You can also use a favorite pasta, rice, or other grain.
For a dinner party:
Make the topping, add the shrimp, and immediately remove from heat to a storage bowl. Chill and save until you are ready to drop your farro, then gently reheat the topping so the shrimp can finish cooking but not get overdone.
For an even quicker prep, use a fresh pasta that takes only a few minutes to cook. It can cook while everything else heats and you are ready in no time at all. That’s what I did the last time I served this to company, about 10 minutes total time in the kitchen away from my guests!
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