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Throughout Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, rice is often cooked with broken bits of toasted vermicelli noodles, which are sometimes called fideos in Spain and Latin America. The resulting dish is like a pilaf, but with more layers of texture and taste. I learned the technique from an Armenian chef when I cooked in France and have since adopted it as my own, swapping in farro for rice, because I find that it has more character. I like the earthy taste and substantial bite of this ancient grain, which has become so popular it’s easy to find in just about any supermarket. Fresh red bell pepper lends sweetness and a little acidity to the mix and pairs well with a range of seasonings.
A hint of mint freshens up the savory depth of garlic and the smokiness of pimentón in this simple side dish. It would pair well with any grilled meat or fish. For an extra toasty and smoky flavor, try substituting freekeh (toasted green wheat), for the farro.
6 to 8
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 ounces vermicelli or angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces (1⁄2 cup)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Finely grind the garlic and savory together and immediately mix with the cayenne, pimentón, and the whole dried mint.
To make the farro: Place the farro in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Let the farro soak for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour to speed up the cooking; drain well. Prep and cook the pasta and vegetables while the grains soak.
Coat the bottom of a medium pot with oil (2 to 3 tablespoons) and set over medium-low heat. Add the butter and swirl until melted. Add the pasta and stir well. Adjust the heat so you find that happy place where the fat bubbles and the noodles sizzle. Cook, stirring continuously, until the pasta is golden brown and smells toasty, about 5 minutes.
Add the onion and stir well. Add all of the spice blend and a pinch of salt. Stir well, mix in the red bell pepper, raise the heat to high, and add the drained farro. Stir well and add the vinegar and 4 cups cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally to pre- vent the spices from scorching, until the farro is tender and the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes, then gently fold the mixture to evenly incorporate all the ingredients and serve.