Farro, also known as emmer wheat, is an ancient grain. I bought some organic farro a while back, and have been developing the recipe for this salad through trial but not error—all iterations were delicious. Farro is high in fiber, protein, some minerals, and B vitamins. While it is lower in gluten than other types of wheat, it does still contain some gluten. (If you want to try a gluten-free version, I think quinoa would work nicely with the salad ingredients. Brown rice would probably also be delicious.) Farro is nutty, with a firm, slightly chewy texture. For more about farro’s nutritional value, here’s a link: https://draxe.com/farro.
I really like this salad for several reasons. It’s one of those dishes that’s really versatile and can be served cold or at room temperature, so it’s perfect for potlucks and outdoor summer suppers. The recipe below has Greek influences, but I’ve also made it with Italian flavors, and it’s equally delicious that way. I also like the fact that it is can be a cold, main vegetarian dish or a side dish. This variation is meatless, but it would be easy to add some cold roasted chicken or lamb, or even a bit of grilled flank steak to increase the protein (in which case you’d want to chill it and keep it cold until serving). Add some baby spinach for more veggie content. Or how about some grilled or roasted marinated eggplant? Fresh zucchini cubes or slices? Grilled zucchini planks, ribboned? So many possibilities!
And now, to the recipe/s!
Mediterranean Farro Salad
3-4 cups cooked farro (approximately)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, diced (or a combination of all three colors is pretty)
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
½ cup diced sun-dried tomatoes (or fresh grape tomatoes, halved, or diced Romas)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
1/3 cup Greek salad dressing (see link below)
First, cook the farro. What follows are the package directions for the farro I bought. There are different varieties of farro, so be sure to follow the directions on your package if they are different than these.
1 cup farro grains (makes 3-4 cups of cooked farro)
3 cups lightly salted water (1/2 teaspoon sea salt is what I used)
Bring water to a boil, add the farro, bring back to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and partially cover with a lid. Cook farro, stirring frequently, for approximately 30 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed. (At my altitude, it takes 40 minutes.) Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir occasionally while cooling. While the farro is cooling, prepare salad dressing and salad vegetables.
I used this simple recipe for Greek salad dressing, and I really liked it: http://www.simplyscratch.com/2010/11/my-big-fat-greek-dressing.html. You’ll probably have all the ingredients you need already in your pantry. A garlic clove, dried oregano, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil. Delicious!
Combine the cooled farro (it doesn’t have to be completely cool, just cool enough to avoid wilting or cooking the veggies), vegetables, feta, herbs, and salad dressing. Mix thoroughly, cover, and cool completely in fridge.
Before serving, stir salad up from bottom to redistribute any dressing that might have drained to the bottom of the bowl and taste. If you want, you can add more salad dressing, but you don’t want your salad to be oily, so don’t go overboard.
For an Italian variation:
*Omit cucumber. Add a cup of roasted or grilled eggplant cubes. (This can be marinated in Italian salad dressing after cooking for more flavor.)
*Omit feta cheese. Substitute cubed fresh mozzarella.
*Omit mint. Add a bit of fresh snipped basil instead.
*Omit Greek salad dressing. Use Italian salad dressing instead. My Italian dressing is essentially the same as the Greek dressing, except for acid I use red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice, and I use dried basil along with the oregano, and pinch of dried thyme.
*Omit sun-dried tomatoes and use fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, halved, or seeded and diced Roma or Italian tomatoes. Any fresh tomato would be fine.
*Omit Kalamata olives. Substitute sliced or halved ripe black olives.
*Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for that quintessentially Italian flavor.
Happy summertime eating! If you come up with any variations of your own, I would love to hear about them.