When you think of cooking a meal on the grill, a vegetarian side dish may not be your first thought. Main courses always seem to steal the show, but the sides can be just as impressive. Full of fresh vegetables and whole grains, today’s recipe is one of the healthiest side dishes you can make. Grilling the vegetables adds a smokiness that complements barbecued meats or it is good enough to serve as a vegetarian main course. The flavors improve with time, so make this a day ahead and have more time to relax the next day.
Other than tossed greens, classic side salads are usually made from starches such as potatoes and pasta. But if you use a grain like brown rice, quinoa, barley, or farro you add healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Including a variety of vegetables adds contrasting flavors and textures. You can include anything that is fresh and in season or use frozen vegetables. Avoid canned items when possible because they are full of sodium and other unhealthy preservatives. If you add a lot of fresh vegetables you won’t need a separate vegetable, making your meal planning much easier.
A lot of people are concerned about the safety of mayonnaise-based salads, especially when you are transporting them in non-refrigerated containers. But if you are making a salad with a vinegar-based dressing like this one, the acid helps keep bacteria from growing and the zesty flavor helps cut the richness of barbecued meats.
Once you have tasted this wonderful salad I am sure it will become one of your favorites just as it mine. Full of nutty goodness and bright flavors, it stands on its own for a brunch or lunch option and is one of my go-to recipes. Instead of relying on all the old standards, try this fresh, new salad. Your guests will be glad you did!
- Farro Salad
- 2 cups uncooked pearled farro, pearled barley or bulgur wheat
- 2-3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 4 to 8 oz mild white cheese, such as Monterey Jack, mozzarella or havarti, cut into small cubes
- 1 tbsp drained and minced capers
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, or to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Grilled Vegetables
- 1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and cut horizontally into thick slices
- 2 poblano or Anaheim chile peppers
- 1 portobello mushroom, cleaned and trimmed
- 1 ear corn, shucked
- 1 small zucchini, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 small yellow or crookneck squash, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick slices
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Pinch salt
- Cook the Farro: In a 2-quart saucepan, add the farro, stock, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low 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. Cool, tossing occasionally with two forks, breaking up any clumps.
- Prepare Grilled Vegetables: Heat grill. If using charcoal, set up a 2-tiered fire with the coals on one side of the barbecue. If using a gas grill, heat both sides and turn one side off when you start cooking.
- Push a skewer crosswise through each onion slice to hold rings together. If they still feel loose, use a second skewer in the opposite direction. Brush all sides of vegetables with the olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Place chile peppers on the hot side of the grill and cook, turning with tongs, until they are charred on all sides. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. This steams the peppers, releasing the skins for easier removal. Peel the chiles, discard the stem and seeds and chop finely.
- While chiles are resting, cook remaining vegetables, in the order given, starting on the hot side to get grill marks and moving them to the cooler side as needed to control cooking. You want the vegetables lightly grilled but they should all retain some of their crispness. As each is done, transfer to a clean baking sheet to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, chop vegetables into same-sized small pieces, slice the kernels off the corncobs and add everything to the bowl with the farro. Toss to combine.
- Make the Dressing: Combine the olive oil, both vinegars, and salt in a small jar. Cover with a tight lid and shake until emulsified. Set aside.
- Assemble the Salad: Prepare the cheese, capers and cucumber and add them to the farro and vegetables. Finely chop the basil and add half to the bowl. Toss well. Shake the dressing until thoroughly blended again and pour over salad. Toss until dressing has evenly coated all the ingredients. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining basil over the top.
- You can serve the salad immediately or hold it in the refrigerator, covered, up to two days. I have served it at room temperature and lightly warmed. Both ways are delicious!
- Yield: about 12 side dish servings