Cook the Book: Winter Farro Salad

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

While planning dinner last night I realized that I was in something of a starch rut. I already had a main and a vegetable side planned, but I was at a loss for a substantial starchy side. Potatoes and rice are my go-tos, but they just seemed so plain; I was in dire need of new and exciting.

I thumbed through Salt to Taste by Marco Canora in search of some inspiration and came across this Winter Farro Salad.

Farro is a grain that I've had little experience with but seemed exotic and hearty enough to fill the missing space on my menu. Farro is a member of the wheat family and has a nutty flavor and chewy texture that reminds me of barley. It's a relatively quick-cooking grain that can be prepared and served in a similar manner to rice.

Canora has a wonderful method for preparing farro in which it is cooked with an aromatic mirepoix. Once the farro is cooked it can be served as-is or mixed into a salad with additional vegetables, herbs, oil, and vinegar. In Salt to Taste Canora lays out two recipes for farro salads, a winter version with carrots, leeks, and thyme, and a summer salad that includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and basil.

I made the winter salad, and it was fantastic. The earthy flavors of the farro worked perfectly with the sweet carrots and leeks, and the balsamic lent a wonderful round tart note. But like all the recipes in Salt to Taste, this farro salad is merely a jumping-off point; a variation of the same dish can be made with any combination of vegetables, herbs, and acid you see fit. Next time I'm thinking about butternut squash with sage and lemon juice.

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Cook the Book: Winter Farro Salad

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About This Recipe

Yield:4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced leek
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 cups cooked farro (recipe follows)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small stalk celery
  • 2 cups farro

Procedures

  1. 1

    Blanch the carrot and leek in a large pot of heavily salted water, cooking until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water.

  2. 2

    Combine the carrot. leek, thyme, and farro in a bowl. Dress with the oil and vinegar to taste. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  3. 3

    Farro

  4. 4

    To make about 5 cups of cooked farro, heat 2 tablespoons on extra virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Chop, then add 1 small onion, 1 small carrot, and 1 small stalk of celery. Season with salt and pepper and stir the vegetables to coat them with the oil. Cover the pot and lower the heat. Cook the vegetables until they soften, about 10 minutes.

  5. 5

    Add 2 cups of farro. Stir to coat it with the oil and vegetables juices. Add enough water to cover by about 1/2 inch. Raise the heat and bring the water to a boil, then adjust the heat so the farro simmers.

  6. 6

    Cook the farro until it is tender, about 20 minutes, adding more water if the pot looks dry. Remove and discard the aromatic vegetables. Serve warm as you would rice or at room temperature.

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