Monday, July 25, 2011

Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Parsley

I first had insalata di farro in Tuscany: it was a simple salad of farro tossed with heirloom tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and pecorino toscano cheese. The nutty, chewy texture of the farro was wonderfully intriguing. Back in SF, I noticed that farro has been popping up lately on restaurant menus across the city as the main ingredient in farotto, a creamy risotto made from farro instead of Arborio rice.

I was delighted to learn that Whole Foods carries farro, also known as emmer (and not to be confused with spelt or wheat berries), in the bulk bin section. If you have never had farro before, it is a nutty, whole grain packed with protein. Farro looks similar to brown rice but the texture is chewy and firmer as opposed to spongy and fluffy. And the best part is that farro is rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E and low in gluten, so it is good for you!


Given unpredictable work schedules, every week I try to come up with a meal that is easy and quick to prepare and will keep for a day or two for leftovers. Hearty salads with farro, quinoa, and other grains like bulgur have been the usual option for these quick meals.

A regular favorite has been to toss the grains with roasted vegetables in a vinaigrette, but, in an effort to avoid turning on the oven in the summertime, I have been experimenting with raw or barely cooked vegetables.

This farro salad is delicious served at room temperature and makes for a simple but filling dinner on a summer night. I tossed farro with halved cherry tomatoes, minced shallot, flat-leaf parsley, and sea salt all dressed in a flavorful balsamic and soy vinaigrette brightened with lemon juice. For lunch the next day, I added diced crisp cucumbers and needless to say, my lunch was the envy of many coworkers!

For a roasted vegetable favorite, try using farro in place of less-than-healthy orzo in this dish with roasted eggplant, peppers, and red onions tossed with feta, scallions, basil, lemon juice and olive oil.

Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Parsley
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 medium cucumber (optional)
1.5 cups farro
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp balsamic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil in a large heavy bottomed pot, add 2 tsp salt. Rinse farro under cold water in a strainer. Transfer farro to salted boiling water, stir and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes until tender but still with a bite. Drain well and let cool in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk together balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce and olive oil. Add minced garlic and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Set aside.

Remove stems from cherry tomatoes. Slice each tomato in half and set aside. If using cucumber, slice into rounds and then slice each round into eighths.

Toss together farro, sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, shallot, parsley and vineagrette. Season well with sea salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

The salad can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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