Ok, so I’m a word nerd who loves alliteration, don’t judge! Farro is a chewy grain that kinda looks like barley (another beloved grain). Healthy AF, but don’t hold that against it, it really is fabulous. And satisfying. I haven’t cooked with it a lot, but plan to start. Especially after this salad I made last weekend. I know, you’re thinking “salad, big deal; I don’t get excited about salad, salad is punishment; salad is penance I do for other poor diet choices” -or maybe that’s just what I say to MYSELF!
I had a dear friend coming over for dinner, a friend who is very much open to my kitchen experiments with new flavors and ingredients. Planning a menu for guests is one of my favorite daydreaming topics. I sometimes begin with a theme, like maybe “Fall” or “Hawaiian luau”, one time it was even spam. Don’t ask. Next step, I mentally (sometimes physically) review what is in the larder, with special attention to what needs to be used now or lost to rot. This time, I had a slightly tatty bunch of kale, some previously roasted and gently pickled beets, a hunk of blue cheese calling out for attention. It pleases me to no end if I can avoid an extra trip to the grocery store and just use what I have.
So then I looked through cookbooks and googled different combinations of these ingredients for ideas. I briefly considered some sort of savory tart (knew I had a slab of puff pastry somewhere in the freezer), that could be good. Kale is yummy in soup, maybe a bean and kale soup with beet and blue cheese salad on the side? Could be tasty on a cold winter day. I know kale salad is a thing, so maybe go in that direction, but it is winter so must be hardy…that’s when I saw a recipe combining kale and farro. Wait! I have an unopened and unloved box of farro in my pantry! No time like the present to use it up. Their version used pomegranate arils and hazelnuts, but I had neither, so I went with my beets and some of the half bag of roasted pepitas I had way in the back instead. Here’s my version:
Kale salad with beets, farro and ginger vinaigrette. Cook the farro in a pot of salted water until tender, this took about 30 minutes for me. It plumps up pretty big, so I only used about ½ cup dry. Drained that and let it cool. Made the dressing in my mini blender with a chunk of fresh ginger chopped up, apple cider vinegar, grapeseed oil (I wanted a neutral flavoured oil), salt, pepper and a little bit of honey. Maple syrup or sugar would also work for a hint of sweetness. Chopped up the kale, minus the stems, and massaged it in a bowl with part of the dressing. Then added the farro, the beets, the pepitas and blue cheese to the bowl and mixed it all together with most of the dressing (I kept some aside to add later, if needed). Let it all marinate in the fridge for a few hours and it came out delicious and a delightful shade of pink! The rest of the menu? Acorn squash soup with seedy bread croutons; Puff pastry tartlets with ricotta, apple sausage, caramelized onions and Mama Lil’s peppers; Banana cocoa n’ice cream sandwiches with Effie’s cocoa biscuits. And, no trip to the grocery required!