Farro and Summer Vegetable Salad

by Meg Cotner on September 3, 2010

farro summer vegetable salad

I did not plan this salad.  It just sort of came to be through improvisation; I like to cook in this way.  Recipes are great, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoy using them, but it’s also nice to take what you have and come up with something delicious, which this most certainly is. Or, was – I ate it all within a 24 hour period.  It was that good.

First, though – what is farro?  Farro is an ancient whole wheat grain also known as Emmer; it’s also related to spelt.  It looks like large barley or even a bit like freekeh, and is medium brown in color.  It has a toothsome texture and mild, nutty flavor.  It has slightly less protein than quinoa, but has almost twice the fiber. You cook it like most grains – soak then simmer in a pot til the water (or stock) absorbs.  My farro comes from Cayuga Organics via my CSA.

So, Tuesday morning I decided I wanted to cook some grains.  I looked in the pantry and the first grain I spied was the farro.  So, I brought it down, put it in my soaking bowl, added water and raw vinegar and let it soak while I was at work.

That night I picked up my CSA shares – the veggie share was full of summer vegetables, and I knew their robust flavors would go well with the farro.

I took what I had – red peppers, leeks, zucchini, tomatoes – and mixed it with the cooked farro, along with some feta and lemon juice.  The salad was so delicious!  It was hearty and satisfying without weighing me down.  The flavors were sharp and clear and they all mixed together to make an excellent dish.  It was wonderfully savory.

I would make this again… in fact, I probably will make it again next week!  It was fantastic the next day, too – the flavors had married and tasted a bit deeper.  Definitely a good dish to bring as leftovers to work.

Farro and Summer Vegetable Salad

1 cup dry farro
soaking water and an acid (I used raw apple cider vinegar; lemon juice would work, too)
juice and zest of 1 lemon
kosher salt
1 leek, finely chopped
1 small red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, julienned, then the matchsticks cut in half to the length of an inch or so
1/4 cup feta cheese (Bulgarian feta is my favorite), crumbled
2 tablespoons pine nuts (raw or toasted)
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

Put the cup of dry farro in a bowl, cover with water and a splash of acid, and let soak for 8-10 hours.  When the soaking time is up, drain the farro and put in a saucepan with 1 cup of water.  Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer until almost all the water has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.  Rinse and drain and set aside.

While the farro is cooking, cut up the leeks.  The way I do this is that I cut off the top fibrous green leaves, leaving the tender white parts.  Then cut off the root end.  Slice the leek in half from root to tip, and rinse the leeks in a way to be sure there is no dirt stuck between the layers.  Put the cut side down and slice thin half moons.  You’ll have a pile of cute skinny half moon leeks – then chop them until they meet your standard for finely chopped.

Add the bell pepper and zucchini.  Add the lemon zest and squeeze the lemon onto the mixture of leeks, pepper, and zucchini, sprinkle with salt (I used about 1/4 tsp) and let that macerate until the farro is ready to be added.

Add the farro and mix with the vegetable lemon combination.  Crumble your feta and add the pine nuts. Pour the olive oil over it all. Last, add the sliced-in-half tomatoes. Mix it all together.  Adjust seasonings as you like.

Serves 4-6, or two servings for some very hungry people.

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