A couple of weeks ago I brought this salad to a meeting of our high school reunion committee. The gals loved it and insisted that I put it up on the blog. They all shared the leftovers and had some the next day too. So Siobhan, Janie, Carol, and Debby, here you go!
Whole grains are the “newest” old food in the world, LOL! Full of flavor, texture, and nutrients, I don’t know why everyone hasn’t jumped on this particular bandwagon. In most recipes you have that call for rice or pasta, you could substitute whole grains and make it much healthier. While the grains vary in size, texture, and flavor, they have one thing in common … they have been left pretty much in their natural state. They are unprocessed and haven’t been bleached or had their outer layers removed.
Full of fresh vegetables and the whole grain farro (also known as spelt or emmer), this is one of the healthiest side dishes you can make. Substitute whatever vegetables are in season or use frozen, but not canned. Canned vegetables have far too much sodium and unhealthy preservatives. This is so good that it will become one of your “go-to” recipes. Because of its robust nature, this is especially good with grilled meats and vegetables.
I am an advocate of mise en place, but this is one case where having all of your ingredients already prepped before you start the recipe isn’t necessary. It is actually better if you don’t have them ready! If the farro is too hot, the cheeses will melt. While I like the creaminess they give to the dish, I don’t want them “that” creamy, LOL!
This salad makes a fabulous option at Thanksgiving if you have vegetarians coming to dinner. Just use vegetable stock instead of chicken and leave out the cheese if they don’t eat it. Butternut squash would be a perfect fall vegetable to add. You could even use fresh sage leaves instead of the basil to give it more of a traditional Thanksgiving flavor!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Farro can be substituted with barley, bulgar, brown rice, wild rice mix, or cracked wheat. Try them all and see which is your favorite. Instead of cooking grains in water I prefer to use stocks. Beef, chicken, or vegetable are all fine and add a lot of flavor to the final dish. If you’ve ever eaten Rice-A-Roni, you know how much the addition of stock can change the flavor of rice!
Kitchen Skill: Chopping an Onion
Cut the stem end off and peel back the dry outer layers. If you leave them attached to the root end, you’ll have something to hold onto while you cut the onion. Cut the onion in half lengthwise – through the root. By leaving the root intact, it will hold the onion together while you slice it.
Working with one half at a time, lay the onion flat on the cutting board. Slice it lengthwise, without cutting into the root. If you want a small dice, make a lot of slices. For a large chop, slices will be farther apart. Turn the onion 90 degrees and slice opposite of your first cuts. The closer each set of slices are together, the finer the dice. The sharper your knife, the less you will cry!
Fresh Vegetable Farro Salad
Jane Evans Bonacci © 2010
Inspired by a recipe from Jennifer Perillo
Yield: about 12 side dish servings
2 cups uncooked farro (or substitute barley)
1 medium red or sweet onion, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt, plus more if needed
2-3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 oz ricotta salata cheese, grated
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, cut into very small cubes
1 tbsp minced capers
2 cups yellow and red cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved if small
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh if available, otherwise use frozen & thaw)
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves or arugula, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
Cook the Farro: In a 2-quart saucepan, add the farro, half the chopped onion, garlic, salt, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until tender according to package directions. Remove from the heat and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with two forks to separate grains. Let cool, tossing occasionally with the forks, breaking up any clumps.
Meanwhile make the Dressing: Combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, and salt in a small jar. Cover with a tight lid and shake until emulsified. Set aside.
Assemble the Salad: Prepare the remaining ingredients and add them to the cooled farro. Toss until evenly distributed. Shake the dressing until thoroughly blended and pour over salad. Toss well until dressing has evenly coated all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
You can serve the salad immediately or you can hold it in the refrigerator up to two days ahead of time. I have served it at room temperature and lightly warmed. Both ways are delicious!
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