After a very long, hot July with almost no rain, our vegetable garden has begun to slow down. Up to this point however, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking my basket into the garden each morning and filling it with ripe tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, squash blossoms, eggplant, and salad greens. We were fortunate to have harvested a huge basket of plump onions early in July that will last us through the fall. Although our garlic bulbs were not as plump as last year, we also were able to harvest enough garlic from our garden to last until we leave Italy in October.
Having a basket full of fresh vegetables each morning requires some effort and creativity on my part to come up with new ways to prepare them. So far this summer, I have made some summer soups, a lot of easy vegetable pasta dishes, and many hearty grain salads such as this one. Here in Umbria, farro is the most popular grain used in soups, salads, and often in place of rice in risotto. The grain is also ground into flour and is used in bread and a variety of baked goods. Farro has a delicious nutty flavor, and is high in fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A,B,C, and E. As a complex carbohydrate, farro is rich in the cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol. Though not a complete source of protein, like quinoa, farro contains more than other grains, and also contains lignans that give it antioxidant properties. Whole grains take longer to digest, so they keep you feeling full longer and provide sustained energy.
This salad uses fresh, raw vegetables and herbs from the garden which are diced up and then tossed with cooked farro. To finish the salad, I dressed it with a simple wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The vegetables I used in this salad were cherry tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, cucumber, and red onion. I added a handful each of fresh parsley leaves, basil, and mint and added canned chickpeas for extra protein which creates a salad hearty enough to enjoy as a summer entree. You could also include some diced cheese such as mozzarella or fontina, black olives, or capers. This salad is a great if you need a dish “on the go” as it packs well, making it a great option for outdoor dining, pot-luck dinners, or even a picnic on the beach. I often make a big bowl of farro salad that we enjoy for dinner the first night, and then finish off for lunch the next day. Farro is an easy grain to cook with as it doesn’t require presoaking, though if farro is unavailable you could substitute spelt or barley.
Deborah Mele 2015
Garden Vegetable & Herb Farro Salad
- 1 Pound Farro
- 2 Medium Zucchini, Diced
- 2 Medium Cucumbers, Diced
- 1 Summer Squash, Diced
- 3 Cups Halved Cherry Tomatoes
- 3/4 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves, Coarsely Chopped
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Mint Leaves
- 2 Cups Canned Chickpeas, Drained
- 4 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper to Taste
- Place the farro in a pot covered by at least two inches of water and bring to a boil.
- Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until the farro is just tender to the bite.
- Drain the farro, cool to room temperature and place in a large bowl.
- Drain the chickpeas and add to the farro along with the diced vegetables and fresh herbs.
- In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix well.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.