I hate to say it, but I’ve grown a little tired of quinoa lately. While it will always be one of my favorite grains/seeds (it has that split personality thing going on), lately I’ve been craving something more sturdy and robust, a grain that can stand up next to all the flavorful summer produce and say “Bite me! Chew me! I’m not just hiding in the background to soak up all the salad dressing!” This week, at least, my heart belongs to an assertive little grain called farro.
Farro is a grain made from an ancient variety of wheat called emmer, and you can buy it either pearled (perlato) or whole. Pearled farro, which is what I used in this recipe, has had some of its outer hull stripped off, making it cook much more quickly. If you can’t find farro on your supermarket or health food store shelves and don’t want to order it online, you can use one of its cousins, spelt or wheatberries, but both will take longer to cook than pearled farro. If you’re gluten-free, please stay away from farro because it is wheat; I recommend substituting buckwheat or brown rice instead.
Though farro is assertive, it is not a bully. Its flavor isn’t as earthy or intense as buckwheat groats and won’t overpower other ingredients, so you could say it plays well with others. But farro is much chewier than rice, quinoa, or even barley, adding an interesting texture to a grain salad like this one, which uses those ever-abundant vegetables of summer, tomatoes and zucchini. Zucchini doesn’t have a lot of flavor of its own, but grilling gives it a smoky edge, and I’ve included grilled pepper to add a little zing. The lemony dressing is based on this one from Martha Rose Shulman, though I’ve replaced the olive oil with a slurry of chia seeds. I hope you find the results as addictive as I do.
Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Grilled Zucchini
The chewiness of farro adds an interesting texture to this vegan grain salad, which features fresh tomatoes and that abundant vegetable of summer, zucchini.
- 9 ounces farro perlato (semi-pearled emmer), about 1 1/3 cups uncooked (see substitutes below)
- 1 teaspoon chia seed or ground flaxseeds
- 3 medium zucchini , trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 1/2 red bell pepper , seeded
- 12-16 ounces cherry tomatoes , halved
- 2 green onions , green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons spicy or Dijon mustard , or to taste
- 1 large clove garlic , minced or pressed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Salt and black pepper , to taste
- Additional lemon juice , to taste
Rinse the semi-pearled farro and place it in a medium pot. Add enough water to cover it by at least an inch and a half, bring to a boil, and cook until it’s tender but still firm, about 20 minutes. Before draining it, remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water and mix it with the chia seed in a small bowl. Drain the farro, rinse it with cold water, and place it in a large serving bowl.
While the farro is cooking, heat a grill or grill pan (I used my Foreman grill). Grill the zucchini until they are golden brown on the cut side and beginning to soften. Remove them from the grill to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch slices; add them to the farro. Grill the pepper just until grill marks appear. Remove it to the cutting board, chop it, and add it to the farro, along with the tomatoes and green onions.
To the chia seed mixture, add the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk together well and add to the farro mixture, stirring to make sure it’s well-distributed. Cover the salad and refrigerate until chilled.
Just before serving, add the basil and check the seasonings. Add more salt, pepper, and lemon juice if necessary.
Instead of pearled farro, you may use regular farro, spelt, wheatberries, or any other large grain. For a gluten-free version, try brown rice or buckwheat groats. Cook according to package directions or check the internet for cooking times because pearled farro cooks much more quickly than most other large grains. If you’re using pre-cooked grain, use 4 cups.
More Fine Farro Fare
Addictively Good Farro Tabbouleh from Healthy Girl’s Kitchen
Farro with Collard Greens and Bacon Salt (yes, it’s vegan!) from Herbivoracious
Bryanna’s Farro Minestrone with Squash and Greens from Notes From the Vegan Feast Kitchen
Warm Farro with Roasted Artichoke Hearts, Tomatoes and Leeks from Sarah’s Cucina
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