Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans
My introduction to the joys of room-temperature farro salad came years ago in Boston, when I wrote an article about two chef-couples’ different approaches to an outdoor dinner party. Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon, who have since taken over the storied Straight Wharf restaurant on Nantucket to much acclaim, cooked the farro in the oven, then combined it with, among other things, fresh cherries, blanched and sauteed broccoli rabe, and pecans. Besides scaling it down to single-serving size, I stripped down their method considerably, standing in fresh arugula for the broccoli rabe so I don’t have to cook it, adding protein in the form of chickpeas, and using dried cherries instead of fresh because I can get them year-round.
I love the nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture of farro, the ancient wheat grain that’s become popular in recent years, thanks to the ongoing influence of regional Italian cooking traditions in the United States. I also find it exceedingly easy and forgiving to cook. Some cooks suggest soaking it overnight and then cooking it like rice, but I find it easiest to simply boil it like pasta until it’s as tender as you want, no soaking required.
You can find farro in health-food stores and stores with a good selection of traditional, imported Italian ingredients. Imported Italian farro typically comes in a l-pound bag, often vacuum sealed. Here’s how I like to cook it:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Add the farro and continue boiling until the grains are mostly tender but still have a slight chewiness to them, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh colander and cool.
One pound of dried farro makes about 6 cups cooked, which you can refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Just transfer it to the refrigerator to let it defrost overnight or all day before using.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
Recipe Coursemain course, side dish
Dietary Considerationmain course, side dish
Type of Dishsalad
- 2 tablespoons raw unsalted pecans
- 1 cup cooked farro (see Notes) (or substitute cooked white or brown rice or barley), cooled
- 1/3 cup cooked chickpeas, preferably homemade, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup lightly packed baby arugula leaves, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup canned diced tomatoes and their juice
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cherries
- 1 shallot lobe, finely chopped
- 6 large mint leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Toast the pecans in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat, shaking the pan frequently, until they start to turn dark brown and smell very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the farro, chickpeas, arugula, tomatoes, cherries, pecans, shallot, and mint; toss to combine. Add the olive oil and red wine vinegar, toss, add salt and pepper to taste, and eat.
2011 Joe Yonan