April 3, 2013 by Meg G.
Apparently I’m more than fashionably late to the farro party. According to this New York Times article from 1997, this whole grain’s American coming out party was about 15 years ago. (Please note that the article mentions a “World Wide Web site” where you can learn about farro – a relatively new phenomenon at the time!)
Farro (or emmer) is a unique species of wheat that is starchy like arborio rice, but more delicate than many other wheat-y whole grains.
Sure, I’ve talked about making “farrotto” one of these days. We even had a whole week dedicated to the grain over at the FSC Book Club, but somehow it just never made its way into my grocery cart. Luckily, our recent love affair with Ocean State Job Lot and a stumble upon a Smitten Kitchen post finally facilitated a formal introduction to this mighty little grain.
Deb says that this is the most delicious lunch salad she’s ever made. I’m going to go ahead and say that she’s onto something.
Apparently today is Whole Grain Sampling Day (what?), which means it’s doubly appropriate that you try a new grain today. Here goes!
Farro Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash – adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup semi-pearled farro
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 3 ounces ricotta salata (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Peel squash, then halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut squash into approximately 3/4-inch chunks. Coat one large or two small baking sheets with 2 tablespoons oil total. Spread squash out in single layer on sheet. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until pieces are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Set aside to cool slightly.
- While squash is roasting, cook the farro (I followed Liana Krissoff’s directions). In a large pot over medium-high heat, toast the farro, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1.5 cups of water and a pinch of salt, cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the grains are tender and most of the water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
- While squash is roasting and farro is simmering, in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, water, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and granulated sugar until sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in onion; it will barely be covered by vinegar mixture but that’s okay. Cover and set in fridge until needed; 30 minutes is ideal but less time will still make a lovely, lightly pickled onion.
- In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash, farro, red onion and its vinegar brine, the crumbled cheese and pine nuts. Toss with the remaining olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Salad keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
If I had noticed that this recipe called for a lightly pickled onion, I might have refused to follow the directions. My relationship with vinegar is tenuous. With the exception of salad dressing, I don’t particularly love it or things swimming in it. But Heather chose the recipe and I was halfway in when I noticed that those lovely red onions were headed for a vinegar brine. I dove in and figured if I hated it, I could just leave them out of mine. The onions only sat in the vinegar for about 20 minutes, so they were definitely “lightly pickled” but I was pleasantly surprised! These lent the perfect bit of bite to this otherwise sweet and earthy salad. Hooray for trying new things!
I loved everything about this salad. As I gave it a final stir, I could tell it was going to hit the spot – a perfect combination of sweet, salty, wholesome, and tangy. We could have gone with our usual feta or goat, but the ricotta salata was just right. You can, of course, alter this recipe to include your favorite nut or seed (Deb’s original recipe actually calls for pepitas) and roasted vegetable (sweet potatoes and carrots seem like natural substitutes). This was equally good cold the next day, on our road trip to New Jersey.