My holiday preparations are in full swing, and I am happy to say my house is fully decorated, and all my gifts have been bought, are wrapped and under the tree. We will have our entire family with us over Christmas, and when we get together as a family, we love to cook and share many great (and abundant) meals together. In anticipation of our usual overindulging over Christmas, I like to eat lighter in the weeks that lead up to the holidays. For me, this means vegetable based meals that include lots of healthy grains. This salad is a great example of the type of dishes I like to prepare as it is full of flavor, has lots of texture and color and is packed with nutrition. I like to make a big bowl of this salad and my husband and I will enjoy it for dinner one day, and then finish off the leftovers for lunch the following day or two. I served this salad spooned over a bed of wild arugula on plates for dinner, which is an option, although it is perfect simply spooned into bowls as well.
Farro is an ancient grain that has become very popular in recent years and is a typical ingredient used in Umbria, the region in Italy where we spend six months each year. A very hearty grain it has a subtle nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture. Farro can now be found in many local grocery stores, Italian specialty shops, or health food stores. You can buy farro in a few different forms including pearled, semi-pearled, or natural. Since the pearled varieties include removing the tough outer husk, the pearled varieties do cook quicker but are not as nutrient rich. If you cannot find farro, you could substitute pearl barley, millet, or even quinoa in its place.
Farro should be cooked just until it is tender to the bite, but it should still be fairly firm. Nothing is worse than overcooked mushy farro in a salad! To cook your farro, simply bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and then drop in your farro and cook until tender, or “al dente”. I often used pearled farro in my salads, which cooks quicker than regular farro, taking just about 15 minutes to cook. Just check your package directions as cooking time will depend on the variety of farro you choose.
In this salad I used raw broccoli cut into bite sized pieces, celery, green onions, apple, and pomegranate arils. I am a sucker for pomegranate anything, and in fact pomegranate arils are one of my favorite snack foods. They also add a holiday touch to any dish they are included in during this time of year, so this colorful salad would be a great option for holiday entertaining. As I do in all my vegetable grain salads, I also added a handful of chopped fresh herbs. I usually include some type of nut or seed in my salads for added crunch and nutrition. In this salad I used raw pumpkin seeds although you could use walnuts, pecans, or sliced almonds instead if you prefer. I wanted a vibrant dressing for my salad, so I mixed together fresh grated horseradish, Dijon mustard, apple vinegar, a little honey, and olive oil. If you prefer, you could simply dress your salad with a red wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette.
I know many folks find it difficult to remove the seeds or arils from a whole pomegranate, but it really isn’t difficult. Simply use a knife and cut the pomegranate into quarters. Fill a large bowl with water, and using your hands, gently break apart the pomegranate under water releasing the arils from the membranes. The arils will sink to the bottom and the membrane will float to the top. When using fresh fruit in my salads such as apples or pears, in order to prevent them from browning once diced, I always drop the diced fruit into a bowl of water with the juice of half a lemon. This keeps the color of the fruit and will help prevent oxigination.
Deborah Mele 2014
Farro Salad With Broccoli, Apples & Pomegranate Arils
- 4 Cups Cooked Farro, Cooled To Room Temperature
- 1 Medium Head of Broccoli, Cut Into Bite Sized Pieces
- 2 Medium Apples (I Like Gala or Pink Lady), Cored & Diced (See Notes Above)
- 3 Stalks Celery, Diced
- 6 Green Onions, Diced
- 1 Medium to Large Pomegranate, Arils Removed (See Notes Above)
- 3/4 Cup Chopped Mix of Fresh Basil, Parsley, & Mint
- 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
- 4 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Horseradish
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Liquid Honey
- Salt & Pepper
- Place the salad ingredients into a large bowl and toss together.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients until blended.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix well.