As much as Puglia is about the land, it is also flanked by water: The Adriatic on one side and the Ionian Sea on the gulf side. Hence one finds a big tradition of seafood as one travels down to the tip of the heel. In the quaint seaside city of Trani, along the Adriatic shoreline, is a delightful restaurant called Le Lampare. There I was introduced to Farro con Legumi e Cozze, a beautiful stew of ceci and cannellini beans cooked with farro, one of my favorite grains, tossed before serving with savory mussels and their juices.
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup dried cannellini beans
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup celery , chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
1 cup farro, or pearled barley
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes
4 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled, and sliced
2 pounds mussels
4 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
A heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet;
Rinse the chickpeas and place in a bowl with cold water covering them by 4 inches. Do the same with the cannellini, in a separate bowl. Soak both for 12 to 24 hours.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in the big saucepan with about 7 cups of fresh cold water. Set the pot over medium-high heat and drop in the chopped carrot, celery and onion, the halved cherry tomatoes, and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bring the water to a boil, partially cover the pan and adjust the heat to maintain a steady, bubbling simmer. Stir occasionally.
After the chickpeas have cooked for an hour, drain and rinse the cannellini and stir them into the pot. There should be at least an inch of liquid covering the beans; add more water if necessary. Return to the boil, partially cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring now and then.
Rinse the farro grains in a sieve and stir in with the beans, along with the 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the peperoncino. There should be about 1/4-inch of liquid covering the beans and grain; add more if necessary. Return to the boil, partially cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or longer, until the beans and the farro are tender-add water if needed to keep the beans and grains barely covered with liquid as they finish cooking. When they are done, most of the surface water should have been absorbed or evaporated but the stew should be slightly soupy.
While the farro cooks, prepare the mussels. Pour the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil in the sauté pan, scatter in the garlic cloves and remaining 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino. Cook for 3 minutes or so over medium-high heat until the garlic is lightly colored then add all the rinsed mussels at once. Tumble them around the pan quickly, to coat with oil and put on the cover. Cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, shaking the covered pan a couple of times, just until the mussels are open, and take the pan off the stove.
Shuck the mussels right over the pan, letting the juices and meat drop in. Discard the shells (and any mussels that did not open). If you like, leave a dozen or so mussels in the shell for a garnish.
When the farro and beans are cooked, pour the shucked mussels and their juices into the pot and stir well-the consistency should be rather brothy. Heat to the boil and cook for just a minute to make sure everything is nice and hot. Taste and adjust salt. Stir in the chopped parsley and spoon portions into warm pasta bowls; garnish with unshucked mussels if you saved them. Drizzle good olive oil over each and serve immediately.
To prepare in advance: Cook the beans and farro until tender, following recipe, and remove from the heat. Let them sit in the saucepan up to 3 hours (they will absorb liquid and thicken). Shortly before serving, cook and shuck the mussels. Stir the mussel juices into the beans and farro and heat slowly to a simmer. Stir in the mussels and finish as above.