Farro, Tomato and Feta Salad
A salad made of whole grains and crispy vegetables can be a main course or a side.
- Servings: 4 to 6 as a side dish, 2 to 3 as a main dish.
Farro is a nutty grain of wheat that's popular in some regions of Italy, especially Tuscany and Umbria. While it's also used in soups and risottos, one of my favorite ways to cook with farro is to make it the main ingredient in a robust and satisfying salad.
I'm recommending flavors to add to the farro, but you can use what you like or what you have on hand. Choose vegetables that have some texture and bright flavors that will contrast with the tender and nutty flavor of the grains. Also remember to cut the pieces of whatever you're adding into a small dice so that it's easy to eat with the grains of farro.
If you can't find farro, you can substitute another whole grain like wheat berries, although be aware that wheat berries can take twice as long to cook. Do not substitute spelt as this grain not only takes far longer to cook, it also can have a mushy texture that doesn't combine well with other salad ingredients.
- 1 1/2 cups farro
- 2 quarts water
- 1/2 cup finely diced red or green pepper (about 1 medium pepper) OR 1/2 cup blanched and peeled fava beans
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half or in quarters, depending on their size (I prefer to use the round cherry tomatoes that come on a vine because these have more juice and a brighter flavor than the small, sweet grape tomatoes)
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, coarsely crumbled or diced
- 1/3 cup finely diced red onion or finely sliced scallions (the white and tender green parts)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- In a large sauce pan combine the farro, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook over a medium low heat until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Drain well.
- Place the farro in a large serving bowl and let come to room temperature.
- Prepare the vegetables by cutting the tomatoes, pepper, onion or scallion, and cheese. Hold aside until the farro is cooled.
- When the farro is completely cooled, add the vegetables and cheese and gently toss to combine.
- In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar, olive oil, a large pinch of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and 4 to 6 grinds of pepper. Use a fork or whisk and combine. Pour over the farro/vegetable mixture and toss to coat.
- Serve either chilled or at room temperature on a bed of salad greens or radicchio leaves.
If the salad is going to be a main course, serve with steamed asparagus spears or another green vegetable. If it's going to be a side dish, it is a perfect match to fish or chicken.
Other ingredients that work well in a farro salad are fresh flat-leafed parsley, chunks of avocado, cubes of cooked beets, fine dice of seedless cucumber, or any other vegetable that will add color, crunch and texture to the nutty grains.