Farro, Mushroom & Sausage Soup

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Even in hot and humid North Carolina we get chilly Spring nights from time to time. This soup is the perfect accompaniment to those evenings that require a blanket but not a furnace. You can use whatever variety of mushrooms you like, just pick an interesting mix — not white button mushrooms or creminis. Serves 4 generously or 6.

  • 8 to 12 ounces mushrooms, any kind or a mix (I like shiitake and portobello)
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ½ large onion
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ pound pork sausage, any kind (I use Italian)
  • 1 cup farro
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander, optional
  • 1 small whole cinnamon stick, optional
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 15.5 ounce can chickpeas
  • 1+ cup hot water
  1. Slice the mushrooms into strips or chunks of some kind. Into a bowl, grate the carrot, celery, and onion.
  2. Heat a small pot or dutch oven over something between medium and medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until it begins to smoke. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook about 5 minutes, until they weep. You will notice much more liquid in the pan boiling furiously; this is normal, don't do anything. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, another 15 minutes or so until the mushrooms are becoming golden brown and crispy. It will take some time, just keep an eye on it.
  3. Add the sausage and break up a bit. Add the grated carrot, celery, and onion, stir well, and cook without stirring much for about 10 minutes, until the veg starts to brown, stick, and form a crust. Break up any big chunks of sausage.
  4. Add the farro and cook about five minutes, stirring halfway through. Be careful, the farro will start to pop after a few minutes!
  5. Add the pepper, coriander, and cinnamon stick, if using. Cook a half a minute more to bloom the spices. Add the stock, stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes. At some point drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  6. After 20 minutes, check the farro to see if it is just barely al dente. If it's still quite hard and there's not much liquid left, add a cup of hot water and cook another 5 to 10 minutes on a little lower heat. Once barely al dente, add the chickpeas and cook 10 minutes more. If you like your grains more tender cook 15 minutes instead. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
  7. Remove the cinnamon stick if you used it. Serve with plenty of broth, maybe a drizzle of your good olive oil, and garnish with celery leaves.