How to Make the Best Versatile Salad

When a friend visited a few weeks ago she came with a recipe for a salad that we hadn’t experienced before: Farro Layered Salad (I don’t know where this particular recipe comes from as it has no provenance). We were invited to a neighbors so our friend made this salad to take; it was the most popular dish at the Memorial Day BBQ!  If you are unfamiliar with farro, it is the Italian name for a species of hard wheat, in this case Emmer, the medium sized ancient grain.

Farro: Emmer
Farro, Emmer, an ancient hard wheat seeing a resurgence in popularity; cook just like brown rice.

Whole grain Emmer wheat is chewy and nutty; it isn’t gluten free.  It cooks like brown rice: 2:1 ratio of liquid to grains, 40-50 minutes covered cooking time.  I have read that soaking over night reduces cooking time and possibly increases mineral availability, but I am not usually that planned ahead.  My normal broth cooking liquid seemed too heavy for this summer meal, so I used water.

My go-to grain-salad dressing is lemon juice and olive oil (equal quantities) with salt and pepper to taste.  Whether tossing or layering, I enjoy nuts, cheese and fruit along with greens (vegetable and herbs).  In the recipe below, the first in the list of ingredients is what I used for last night’s dinner, followed by the equivalent in the original recipe and then other ideas that sound good to me.  If you have favorite combinations use them!  Let me know if something fantastic strikes you that isn’t on the possibilities list as I am always open to new ideas or combinations.

Farro Salad

Dressing: 1:1 lemon juice to olive oil enough to cover your salad, salt and pepper to taste (e.g. 4 tablespoons lemon juice to four tablespoons olive oil for a salad with 1 cup uncooked grain and vegetables)  On occasion, when I want a bit more zing to the dressing I will add grated garlic, horse radish or ginger and sugar, in equal amounts, for the zip desired.

Farro Salad fixings
Red onion, celery tops, parsley, peppermint, apricots, cucumber, red onion, pistachios and gorgonzola cheese for a cold Farro Salad.

Salad: Toss together 1 cup uncooked farro, quinoa, millet, lentils, etc. (pick one and cook el dente), 1 1/2 cups finely chopped red or sweet onion, 1 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, mint, chives, dill, tarragon, fennel seed, thyme or other herb. If you are layering the salad, use half of the dressing in this tossed part of the salad and press into a 9×13 baking dish.  On top, with the other half of the dressing, or tossed into the mix with all of the dressing to coat, 3 cups of chopped cucumber, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, zucchini, shredded fennel bulb, shredded celery root, shredded jicama, etc. or a combination of greens.  Top with 1 1/4 cup gorgonzola, feta, chevre, asiago or other crumbly cheese, 1 1/4 cup toasted pistachios, walnuts, pepitos, pine nuts or other nuts, and two cups diced apricots, quartered red/green grapes, pitted olives, nectarine or peach pieces in summer, apple or pear in winter.  I tossed this into the salad as well.


We chose to pair this salad with Dolcetto, Locati 2014 Dolcetto to be exact. This light bodied, mildly spicy nose, with pie cherries and tart berries dominating the palate with a date-sweet finish was a wonderful accompaniment to the Farro Salad.  You could choose a  medium bodied white or light red that you like to pair.


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