Why It Works
- Simmering the farro with onion, garlic, and carrot imparts a subtle savoriness and a hint of sweetness.
- Cooking the farro until just barely tender preserves its texture when tossed with the vinaigrette.
Grains can be a polarizing food, but whether you love them or hate them, we can all agree on one thing: boring grain dishes should be tossed out with the chaff. Here, we are only interested in inventive, refreshing grain salads: full of flavor, and perfect for summer. Our goal is to make believers out of naysayers, and give inspiration to those already converted.
In this simple recipe, farro is simmered with onion, garlic, and carrot to impart extra flavor. Then it's combined with a host of fresh ingredients: juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs, all of which are tied together with red wine vinaigrette, pine nuts, and crumbled blue cheese.
The key to good farro is to avoid cooking it too long. My package directions said 30 minutes, but that landed me with swollen, overcooked grains. In my case, 20 minutes did the trick, but the bottom line with all grains is keeping an eye on the pot and trusting your taste.
Once the farro is drained and cooled, simply toss in your chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, along with a fresh, aromatic handful of basil, parsley, and thyme. Finish it off with the nuts, cheese, and vinaigrette and you'll find yourself with a cool, refreshing summer salad that's more than worthy of your next backyard barbecue.
- For the Vinaigrette:
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the Salad:
- 10 ounces farro (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 cups water
- 1 small white or yellow onion, quartered
- 1 medium clove garlic, smashed
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 small seedless cucumber, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup minced, fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced, fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme
- 3 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the Vinaigrette: Whisk together ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Reserve.
For the Salad: Place farro and water in a medium saucepan with onion, garlic, carrot, and 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until farro is just tender, about 20 minutes (see note). Drain, discard onion, garlic, and carrot and transfer to a bowl to cool.
Gently fold remaining salad ingredients into cooled farro. Add vinaigrette, starting with a few tablespoons at a time. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and add additional vinaigrette as needed. Serve immediately.
Be careful not to overcook the farro: you want it to stand up to the vinaigrette. So, remove it from the heat just when it loses its bite.
Make-Ahead and Storage
You can cook the farro ahead of time and refrigerate it. However, it's best to dress the salad shortly before serving it, ideally at room temperature.