Farro & Vegetable Salad w/ Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette

Farro & Vegetable Salad w/ Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette Farro—Wheat of the Pharaohs

I can hardly wait for you to try this recipe; it has become our new favorite grain salad. A fabulous blend of chewy and crisp textures, nutty and bright flavors and purple, orange and green veggies—all most deliciously enveloped in the Lemon Cilantro dressing. As each of the nutrient rich ingredients is always available, this is a salad you can enjoy as much right now as in the middle of winter.

FarroFarro (FAR-roh) is the Italian name for emmer wheat, a non-hybridized, heirloom strain of hard wheat widely cultivated across the Mediterranean for millennia. The use of emmer as food is ancient. Historians believe it was first cultivated in Babylonia around 7000 B.C. Known as the wheat of the Pharaohs, emmer served as a daily staple of the ancient Egyptians.

Despite emmer’s early popularity and its adaptability to poor soils, its low yield and the difficulty of milling it into flour (as the chaff doesn’t come off through threshing) paved the way for other strains of heirloom wheat to gain greater prominence. Though in the region around Tuscany, Italians have continued to grow farro because of its nutrition, flavor and plump and chewy texture. Nutritionally, farro is a rich source of protein, fiber, magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin E.

Choosing farro
Farro comes in three different forms: whole farro, farro semi-perlato and farro perlato. If you can find it, you may want to purchase whole farro as it has all of its nutritious bran intact. Because its kernel is so tough, it is recommended to soak whole farro overnight before draining and cooking it.

Nutritionally, a close second choice is farro semi-perlato as it retains more of its bran than does farro perlato. Farro perlato (pearled) and farro semi-perlato (semi-pearled) are increasingly more available in the U.S. in both natural food and gourmet stores. (Don’t you just love the sound of these words: farro, perlato, semi-perlato?)

Cooking farro
Whole farro:  Soak whole farro overnight, then drain it. Simmer 1 cup whole farro and 5 cups lightly salted water or stock in an uncovered pan about 60 minutes until it has softened and become pleasantly chewy. Cooked and Drained Farro (c) jfhaugenDrain the farro in a sieve before proceeding with your recipe.

Pearled or semi-pearled farro:  Wash and drain farro semi-perlato or farro perlato. Simmer 1 cup of either of these types of farro with 2 ¾ cups lightly salted water or stock in a partially covered pan for about 30 minutes until all or almost all of the water is absorbed and the farro is pleasantly chewy. Cover the pan of farro completely and let it sit off the heat for 5 minutes before straining if necessary to remove any unabsorbed liquid.

Having made a bit of a mess on my stove the first time I cooked farro semi-perlato, I now know the key to a clean stove: with either of the pearled farros, keep the pan partially covered so the accumulated foam won’t boil up, out and over your pot.

A word of caution
You may read that some people consider farro as another name for spelt. However, they are different varieties of low-gluten, heirloom wheat. Although they are interchangeable once cooked, they have completely different cooking times. I’ve read that farro “can’t be overcooked.” Not so of spelt which I understand will become mushy if cooked too long.

Gluten content
Some gluten-sensitive individuals are able to enjoy farro because of its low gluten content and different gluten structure than regular wheat. Farro is not recommended for those who are gluten intolerant.

Salad Dressing Update
For greater depth and complexity of flavor, add 1 tablespoon za’atar and 1 large Serrano or jalapeno chile without seeds to the blender. Loved it this way.

Farro & Vegetable Salad w/ Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette (c) jfhaugenFarro & Vegetable Salad w/ Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette

Inspired and adapted from a recipe by Jovial Foods

Makes about 16 cups—which is a lot, but then it also keeps well and the taste is so fabulous you’ll be happy to have leftovers. And, this recipe can most easily be halved. Optional: toss in a little crumbled, creamy feta cheese and/or additional coarsely chopped cilantro for added color and flavor.

2 cups farro semi-perlato
5 ½ cups water
Farro Salad Vegetables (c) jfhaugen6-7 cups grated purple cabbage (about half a small cabbage)
3 cups grated carrots
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
Zest of one lemon (organic if possible)
½ teaspoon salt
Dozen twists freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons coarse mustard
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons lite seasoned rice vinegar (optional)

Wash and drain the farro. Add it to a large pot along with the 5 ½ cups of water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, partially cover the pan and simmer over medium heat about 30 minutes until all or almost all of the water is absorbed. Cover the pan of farro completely and let it sit off the heat for 5 minutes before straining if necessary to remove any unabsorbed liquid.

Cabbage, Carrots, Green Onions & Lemon Zest (c) jfhaugenWhile the farro is cooking, prep the vegetables and toast the pumpkin seeds. Toss the cabbage, carrots, green onions, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl.

Prepare the dressing: Place the first six ingredients into the blender and blend till smooth. Gradually add the olive oil until the dressing is thick.

Stir the dressing into the vegetables then stir in the farro. If there is dressing left in the blender swirl the optional vinegar into the blender jar to release it and then add to the salad. Toss until evenly coated. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the pumpkin seeds just before serving as a main dish or side salad.

Optional Salad Dressing Update
For greater depth of flavor, add 1 tablespoon za’atar and 1 small Serrano chile without seeds to the blender.

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9 thoughts on “Farro & Vegetable Salad w/ Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette

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  4. Farro is my new go to grain. The salad is delicious and well balanced. Thank you for another great recipe.

    • You are so welcome, Mitzi,
      Nice to hear that you are enjoying farro and this salad. I agree with you about farro–I’m loving its texture and taste more and more.

  5. I agree with Teri, the color in your photos is just magnificent and a feast for the eyes. We will have to create the feast for our stomachs by preparing the salad. It sounds and looks wonderful. I haven’t tried Farro yet! A new opportunity.
    Yes, thank you for the presentation and talk at Bakers Street. I enjoyed it.

    • Thank you, thank you, Ute, so glad I could come up with something delicious that you aren’t yet familiar with. Do let me know how the salad comes out for you. I’m about to make another one for us for lunch.
      So glad you enjoyed the event at Baker Street! I hope to have a few photos up soon under the Events menu tab.

  6. Would like to reach in to your picture of the Farro & Vegetable Salad and scoop a serving… however, I guess I have to make it, which will be fun. Thank you so much for your informative and delightful talk yesterday at Bakers Street! The tapenade is delicious! More of your wonderful stories and shared recipes, please. Teri

    • Thank you, Teri,
      And so glad you were at the Baker Street event yesterday–it was a great group and very fun to share stories and the joy of living healthy with everyone.

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