In the summer months, we love to keep containers of what I call "big-batch salads" on hand in our refrigerator for quick and easy lunch, snack or dinner side dish. These are salads that hold up well over several days, making them great for barbecues and picnics, and feature a robust variety of healthy ingredients.
Over the years, several of our favorite big-batch salad recipes have been shared here, including our Tuscan Bean Salad, Tony's Edamame Salad, Summer Slaw, Barnhardt Black Bean and Rice Salad and Pesto Pasta Salad. Today we are excited to introduce Sarah's Summer Farro Salad, a newly-developed recipe that has instantly become a favorite.
Farro is an ancient grain of the wheat family, and is common among the cuisines of Italy and throughout the Mediterranean. Grains play an important role in a healthy diet, as their high fiber and protein content provide not only nutrition but help you feel fuller, longer. They are also a great source of zinc, iron and other important nutrients.
Farro can come from a variety of different wheats like Spelt, Einkorn and Emmer, and is available in whole grain, semi-pearled or pearled form. For this recipe, I used a semi-pearled farro, which means that the grain has been lightly scored to help release its starches when cooking. This gives the grain a wonderfully chewy, yet still crunchy texture, similar to a pearled barley or wheat berry. You can find farro locally at specialty food stores like Natural Grocers and Tochi Products.
When cooked, farro becomes quite absorbent and takes on the flavors of the ingredients around it. For this recipe, I cooked the farro in water with one bay leaf, and for added flavor you could also use vegetable or chicken stock in place of some of the water. Some farro recipes require soaking the grains overnight, but I've had great results simply cooking the farro on high heat for 25 to 30 minutes, and then letting it rest off the burner and covered for another 10minutes.
In addition to farro, this salad features a host of flavorful summer ingredients including fresh green beans, tomatoes, radishes, kalamata olives, toasted walnuts, fresh mozzarella cheese and a blend of fresh herbs.
The measurements in our recipe are general guidelines, and you can adjust them as desired. Farro has a lovely, nutty flavor and is wonderfully versatile, so you can play around with various ingredients to create new ways to enjoy this ancient grain.
This big-batch salad serves many as a side dish, and holds up well at room temperature for several hours. While it can be served upon completion, this salad is best when made a day or two before serving, thus allowing the flavors to really settle in.
Sarah's Summer Farro Salad pairs well with grilled foods like chicken, fish, lamb and kabobs. Tony says that it's so good he wouldn't even mind having it with a hamburger. That's high praise, indeed, coming from my pasta-loving Italian. Enjoy!
Sarah's Summer Farro Salad
Water (may also add vegetable or chicken stock for more flavor)
1 bay leaf
2 cups semi-pearled farro
½ lb. green beans (about 2 cups), blanched and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided - more as needed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided - more as needed
1 medium shallot, minced
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup walnut, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3 to 4 radishes, thinly sliced, then cut in half
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill a large pot two-thirds of the way with water, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the honey with 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil; whisk vigorously until emulsified. Add the green beans and shallots and toss until evenly coated. Add ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and mix to combine. Marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Once the pot of water has begun to boil, add the farro and continue cooking over high heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grain softens but still has a slight crunch. Remove pot from burner, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain the farro into a strainer and discard the bay leaf.
Return farro to the pot and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If the farro appears clumpy, use a fork to lightly fluff and separate the grains.
To the pot of cooked farro, add the olives, walnuts, tomatoes and radishes and lightly toss to combine. Add the remaining tablespoon of vinegar, the marinated vegetables and all of the liquid marinade and stir well to combine; taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Let salad cool at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before adding the mozzarella.
Stir in the cheese, basil, parsley and lemon zest; taste and add more salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil if needed. Transfer salad to serving bowl and garnish with finely chopped chives. Leftovers may be refrigerated for several days.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com. More recipes can be found at thelostitalian.areavoices.com.