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Hearty Autumn Farro Salad

Farro Salad top

When Chris and I visited Italy this summer, we bought a bag of organic farro and toted that heavy bag of grain around through Italy, Germany, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. THAT’s how dedicated we are to good food, folks.

Farro is a nutty tasting, chewy grain kind of reminiscent of barley (which you can substitute in this recipe if you like). Farro grains are actually whole wheat kernels, which means they’re high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories. Italians tend to use them in soups, we noticed, but they’re also great in salads or as a healthy substitute for rice.

You can find farro at Whole Foods and other organic/health food stores, and some supermarkets. It is sometimes sold under other names, such as spelt or emmer wheat. Look for semi-pearled or farro perlato. This means that part of the husk has been removed, making it less crucial to presoak the farro before cooking.

Farro Salad

We finally opened up our bag of farro tonight after I was inspired by a recipe for a farro chicken salad on Epicurious. I started with that recipe, but added chunks of roasted sweet potato and changed the portions around a bit (more chicken, etc…).

Speaking of sweet potato, have you ever noticed that after you peel your sweet potatoes they start sweating a sort of milky white liquid? Apparently some kinds of sweet potatoes do this, and it’s completely harmless – it’s just the starch leaking out a bit.  It did freak me out a bit, but the result was just as delicious as non-milky-liquid-sweating ones.

Farro Salad close

Hearty Autumn Farro Salad (with Chicken and Sweet Potato)
This hearty salad is a meal in itself and uses seasonal vegetables such as green beans and sweet potato. If you can’t find farro, substitute pearl barley instead – it has a similar chewy texture. This salad uses cooked ingredients and requires a bit of multi-tasking, but the end result is just really really good.  I didn’t bother letting everything cool completely, and the warm chunks of sweet potato were the best part, I thought.

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course.

½ cup semi-pearled farro
2 chicken breasts, halved
½ pound green beans, ends snapped off
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp mustard
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400F/200C oven until crisp on the outside, turning once, about 40 minutes.

Boil the farro in a pot of salted boiling water about 20-25 minutes, until tender but still chewy. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper and pan-fry the chicken breasts until cooked through, about 8 minutes on each side (I fried them with a combination of butter and oil, which helped give the meat a nice golden-brown crust). Cool and cut into pieces.

Cook the green beans in a pot of boiling water, about 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain and pat dry with a clean cloth. Cut into 2-inch sections.

Toss the farro, sweet potatoes, chicken pieces, green beans, chives and basil together in a bowl. Whisk together the mustard, olive oil, and vinegar until emulsified, and season with salt and pepper. Toss dressing with salad. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

2 comments to Hearty Autumn Farro Salad

  • Heather

    This sounds really good. I bought a bag of farro in Tuscany, and it was heavy and held us up just a bit in customs back in the U.S.

    I still haven’t used any of it, so I might open with this recipe. Thanks.

  • Kerry Lloyd

    Mmmm, sounds really delicious. We made a ‘risotto’ which included farro, white wine and dried porcini mushrooms & are keen for another farro experience!
    Just wondering, when you say mustard, do you mean powdered? American? Dijon? ??? As an Australian I don’t want your recipe to get ‘lost’ in translation!!
    Thanks for sharing :)