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Zuppa di farro e menta

This comes from Joe Famularo's delightful book, "Good & garlicky, thick & hearty, soul-satisfying more-than-minestrone Italian soup cookbook".  He said it was originally made with spelt, but adapted it to use pearled barley (and calls it zuppa di orzo e menta).  The spelt I've seen sold for sale imported from Italy is also partly "pearled", but I happened to have whole spelt on hand and tried it, and the results were magic.  It's hard to believe such a simple soup can be so good.  Because it is so simple, however, you really do need to use the best stock you can make or buy.

1 1/2C spelt

whole spelt berries, imported "peeled" berries, whole wheat berries or pearled barley all should work, but cooking times will vary by the grain used

9C turkey or other really good turkey or chicken stock

In a pressure cooker (4 quart or larger), bring the spelt and stock to 15lb pressure and cook 35 minutes.   For pearled barley, cook 20 minutes at 15 lbs.  If not using a pressure cooker, you may need to simmer the whole spelt or wheat berries for two hours, or pearl barley for 30-45 minutes.

4 ounces pecorino cheese, grated or finely cubed

Famularo calls for pecorino romano here; I prefer pecorino toscano, which is harder to find but a bit less sharp.  Either way you need a sharp, strong, salty cheese to bring the soup together.  I tried some of my favorite dry jack recently and it did not melt in the soup properly, stringing and clumping into big lumps, so be careful if you experiment with something besides the pecorinos.

1/4 C chopped fresh mint or 1T dried mint leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
When the berries are cooked, stir in the cheese, mint, and pepper to taste.

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