I am a huge fan of grain salads packed full of veggies, and I make them often, varying the ingredients depending on the season. There are so many healthy grains available to choose from these days that can be found in our local grocery stores. Some of my favorite grains for salads are farro, barley and wheat berries. Here in Umbria, farro is the grain of choice for soups and salads, and it is also ground into flour and used for baking breads and desserts. When I was craving a farro salad this week, I knew I wanted it to reflect the season, so I picked up some Brussels sprouts and pumpkin to roast. I then lightly toasted some walnuts, chopped some green onions, and threw in a handful of cranberries. This salad is so delicious that it has officially become my fall salad of choice and would be a great selection to make for potluck dinners, or for meatless Monday dining at home. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator, and in fact, I think the flavor might have even improved by the next day.
As well as being very tasty, farro is very healthy for you too. A cup of farro has about 8 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber, or four times as much as white rice. It is a good source of B vitamins and minerals, magnesium in particular, and its complex carbs break down slowly which helps to keep your energy level regulated. 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 or even quinoa in its place. Farro is now much easier to find in North America than it used to be, and often is sold in the organic section of your local grocery store.
I never usually measure my ingredients when I make a salad like this one, but it does help to chop all the ingredients about the same size. The addition of fresh herbs gives this salad a fresh, vibrant flavor, but you can choose any combination of fresh herbs you prefer. I prefer a more acidic dressing than my husband does, so I often dress my salads lightly and then offer additional extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemons at the table.
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 which cooks quicker than regular farro, taking just about 15 minutes to cook. To toast the walnuts, bake on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes or until the nuts are just beginning to color. I chose to oven roast my Brussels sprouts and pumpkin, but you could also use your Brussels sprouts raw if you shaved them thinly.
Deborah Mele 2014
- 1 Pound Brussels Sprouts
- 1 Pound Pumpkin
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
- 4 Cups Cooked Farro (See Note Above)
- 4 Green Onions, Chopped
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves, Coarsely Chopped
- 1/3 Cup Dried Cranberries
- 1/3 Cup Toasted Walnuts, Chopped (See Note Above)
- 4 Tablespoons Wine Vinegar
- 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
- Peel and cut the pumpkin into 1-inch dice, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread out on one of the prepared baking sheets.
- Trim the bottom of the Brussels sprouts, remove any damaged outer leaves, and cut into quarters.
- Toss the sprouts with the other 2 tablespoons of oil, and spread them out across the other prepared pan.
- Roast the sprouts and pumpkin until it is fork tender, about 25 minutes.
- Cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, toss together the sprouts, pumpkin, cooked farro, onions, parsley, cranberries and walnuts.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, then pour over the salad.
- Gently toss to mix.
- Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 535 Total Fat: 27g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 22g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 74mg Carbohydrates: 66g Fiber: 11g Sugar: 15g Protein: 13g