Farro is one of my favorite grains: easy to cook, holds up well in a salad, has a great nutty flavor and chewy texture. Personally, I think it is the most satisfying of grains that are good for us. It is also versatile, inexpensive, readily available, and sits nicely in the pantry until I need it.
In the winter, I love using it in soups or casseroles. But when those hot summer days hit, farro is perfect to use in a make-ahead salad that can be pulled out when needed. It also lasts in the refrigerator for 2-3 days without getting soggy. Unlike rice or pasta salad, it does not absorb all of the dressing and become dry.
Farro is an extremely nutritious grain. It’s an excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins. Also, farro provides antioxidants and polyphenols which are thought to play a role in protecting against heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Finally, farro is higher in protein than many other plant-based foods and is low in calories—what could be better in a salad?!
Farro is also easy to prepare, just boil 3 cups of water (add some extra flavor like a bay leaf or garlic if desired), add 1 cup rinsed farro and a bit of salt, then simmer until done. You can purchase whole farro, semi-pearled, pearled or even packages of “10-minute” farro. Cooking times range from 45 minutes to the quick 10-minute version. Whichever kind you buy, the package will tell you how long to simmer the grain. Fluffing with a fork after simmering helps separate the grains, but farro will not really stick tightly together like rice.
More often than not, when I make this summertime salad, I prefer to use the 10-minute farro because it is usually hot, and who wants to spend 45 minutes over a simmering pot in the kitchen?
Toasting farro can add another nice nuance of flavor, but I don’t always bother in the summer because, again, I prefer to limit adding heat to an already hot day.
The inspiration for this salad came from delish.com, but I made quite a few variations from the original recipe. One of the most important changes came from my reticence to make a lot of dirty dishes. I just didn’t feel like using and cleaning two pots, multiple bowls, and a mini food processor. Must be when it gets hot outside, I get lazy inside.
I decided to use a large pot to cook the green beans first, drain the beans and add ice to cool them down quickly and preserve the bright green color. Then I added water back to the same pot, brought it to a boil and added the farro. After reducing the heat, I let the farro simmer until done, but still chewy.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice and olive oil. I decided to add just a bit of Dijon mustard to help keep the dressing emulsified and add additional flavor. Stir in the garlic and chopped basil.
When I make this ahead of time, I put all of the salad ingredients except the greens together in a large bowl and toss it all with the dressing. When ready to serve, I layer a bed of lettuce (romaine, mesclun or any mix of lettuces you have on hand) on the bottom of a serving dish and add the farro mixture.
And this time I added sliced, grilled halloumi cheese on top, but you could also leave the cheese off. Halloumi cheese is perfect for grilling or pan-frying because it has a very hight melting point. Generally, halloumi cheese will become warm and chewy, but will not actually ooze and melt. You could also add simply grilled chicken, salmon or even pork. I think this salad is satisfying with or without additional grilled protein.
SUMMER FARRO SALAD
- 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
- 10 min farro, 1-1 1/2 cups
- 1-pint red grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 (15.5 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed, spun dry and torn into bite sized pieces
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 Garlic clove, minced
- Small bunch of fresh basil (about 1/4 cup when chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 package (8-9 ounces) halloumi cheese, sliced (optional)
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the green beans for 5-6 minutes or until al dente and still bright green. Drain and run very cold water over top (or put the drained beans into a bowl of ice water) to stop the beans from over cooking. Drain and set aside.
Refill the pot with 3 cups salted water and bring to a boil, add the farro, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Taste to see if the chewy texture is done to your liking. If not, continue to cook the farro for about 2 minutes (you may need to add more water). If there is extra water after it is done, drain the excess.
While the farro is simmering, whisk the olive and lemon juice together until it starts to emulsify, whisk in the Dijon mustard. Add the garlic, basil, salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine farro, tomatoes, chickpeas, and green beans. Pour the vinaigrette over top and toss gently to combine. Refrigerate until serving time.
Just before serving, grill or panfry the halloumi cheese (I used my George Foreman grill) for 2-3 minutes on each side or just until browned.
Serve the farro salad and cheese on top of a bed of lettuce.