In Aspen, my girlfriend Hollye passed along her farro obsession. She kept ordering these virtuous salads while the rest of us asked for hot chocolate and fondue, and finally, guilt got the better of me. Farro is actually delicious. It’s an ancient Italian grain said to have fed the Roman empire. It’s also good for you: full of protein and low in gluten. It has a nutty, rich taste and an interesting texture. We’ve been eating it in salads at home this week, and my favorite is Greek-style with briny olives, snappy cucumbers, and bracing lemon.
This is what farro looks like, uncooked. I found it at Whole Foods. Some brands want you to soak the grains overnight. My package asked me to do that, but I didn’t, and you know what? I can’t see why anyone would. Boil the farro for about 30 minutes, or a little less if you like it crunchy. (I do.) Drain well, let it cool, toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and then get to work chopping vegetables.
RECIPE (a very unexact one, at that)
Farro and kale salad with kalamata olives, cucumbers, roast chicken and lemon
2-3 cups cooked farro, cooled
2 cups kale, stems removed, chopped in half-inch pieces (I love Bob McClendon’s black Tuscan kale from the farmers’ market)
1/2 of an English cucumber (the kind wrapped in plastic at the store), seeded and chopped
1 cup kalamata olives, measured whole, then chopped
1 cup roasted chicken, shredded (I used leftovers from this recipe)
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or green onions
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled or chopped (more would be good, too, but I was being healthy)
toasted almonds, for garnish
for the vinaigrette:
in a bowl, combine the zest and juice of two lemons, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, one clove of garlic, minced, 1/2 teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and stir. Whisk in olive oil to taste — between 1/3 and 1/2 cup. You might want more oil, but I like this dressing really acidic to cut through the farro and kale. You might want more honey. Sometimes, I add a tablespoon of minced shallots, too, and chopped fresh oregano, when I have it. You will probably need about half of the recipe for the salad.
To assemble the salad, combine all the ingredients, sprinkle with a half-teaspoon of salt or so, then dress to taste with vinaigrette.
(I’m also dreaming of a farro salad that’s much less innocent, with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, cider vinegar, chives and, um, bacon. )