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farro with cucumber, golden beets, feta and mint vinaigrette

July 22, 2011

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Someone asked Daughter #1 yesterday what her favorite dish is that I make.  She thought that was a tough question since she really does like everything I cook at home.  So she decided to narrow it down herself to her favorite summer dish that I make which, she said, is Farro with Cucumber, Golden Beets and Feta with Mint Vinaigrette.  Really??  That, or Turkey Burgers, she added.  I thought she might say something a little fancier, but maybe farro is in her head because I’ve made it a few times recently, including once when she did most of the work herself.

I shouldn’t be surprised she loves this dish because I am crazy for it, too.  I originally found the inspiration for the recipe when I was looking through the offerings for cooking classes at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York.  Peter Berley was teaching a vegetarian class with this dish on the menu. I thought it sounded so summery and tasty and I have a very trusty mint vinaigrette that I adore on asparagus, so I figured, how hard can this be?  Grain-based salads are among the easiest recipes to make up.  You take some cooked farro, barley, quinoa or whatever and add a few yummy ingredients that go together and a vinaigrette that’s one part acid and one part oil.  Don’t forget the salt and pepper and some fresh herbs if you have them and that’s it.  I have no idea how Peter Berley makes his salad, but this is just delicious and I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.

During the summer we tend to eat much more lightly, relying less on animal protein and more on whole grains, legumes and lots of vegetables.  I love this farro salad with a side of grilled vegetables and a glass of white wine (for me, not the kids.)  It’s the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or a picnic, since you can assemble all the components ahead and even dress it beforehand.  Don’t laugh, but I actually made this for our in-flight lunch when we flew back east last month.  I was so pleased with myself when I saw the airline cheese and cracker boxes that might have been.  Our friends Karen and Jonathan invited us to the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks ago, which is a lovely LA experience if you’ve never done it.  We brought a picnic dinner, some wine and boy, did I feel civilized.  Karen made grilled salmon and I brought a tomato salad, grated carrot salad and this farro.  Can you say “Pamela’s perfect meal?”

Farro might be my favorite grain.  It may not be the superpower that quinoa is, but I love its chewy, nuttiness especially when you can really appreciate it, like in a a salad.  It reminds me a little of barley, but more flavorful and with more toothiness.  I found this farro at Whole Foods and my local produce shop, Grow.  I know you can also buy it on Amazon.com, which I am relying on more and more for pantry staples.  If you want to make this right away and you have everything else but the farro, go ahead and substitute barley or wheat berries.  It will still be fabulous.  In fact, there are so many substitutions you can make — cherry tomatoes for beets, blanched green beans, zucchini or asparagus for cucumbers, drop the cheese altogether if you’re dairy-free and add some toasted and salted walnuts or almonds.  Have fun playing around with this and trust your instincts.  You might end up creating your most favorite salad ever.

farro with cucumbers, golden beets, feta and mint vinaigrette

serves 6

1 cup farro

3 golden beets, tops removed and reserved for another use, roasted, peeled and cubed, about 1 ½ cups (see this recipe for directions on how to roast beets)

1 ½ cups chopped cucumber (leave peel on for thin-skinned varieties)

6 ounces feta, diced

MINT DRESSING

¼ cup diced red onion

1 clove garlic

½ cup fresh mint leaves

3 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon raw honey (pour oil into the teaspoon and pour that into the measuring cup; use the same teaspoon to measure the honey and the honey will slide right out )

½ teaspoon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

½ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

 

  1. Boil the farro and a pinch of salt in plenty of water.  Cook until al dente, about 20 minutes.  Pour into a colander and rinse under cold water until cool.  Drain very well and transfer into a serving bowl.
  2. Add the beets and cucumber to the serving bowl.
  3. Prepare the dressing:  In a blender or a food processor, combine the onions, garlic, mint, rice vinegar, sea salt and pepper.  Turn on the motor and add the olive oil in a slow steady stream.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.  Add feta and toss gently.  Taste for seasonings.

 

 

24 Responses to “farro with cucumber, golden beets, feta and mint vinaigrette”

  1. Katie says:

    Hello Pamela. I’m not super new to your site, but this is my first time commenting. I just want you to know how much I LOVE this dish! I was so excited to find beets at the farmer’s market this morning so that I could make it. I’ve made it several times and always share the recipe (and your blog) with others because I think it is so good and love how healthy it is. I also make your avocado/spinach/almond milk smoothie several mornings a week for breakfast. Thank you for sharing excellent and healthy recipes for those of us who love to cook with real food!!

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you for leaving such an enthusiastic comment, Katie! I always love hearing from my readers :) . This salad, especially the dressing, is one of my absolute favorites!

      • Katie says:

        I have some leftover dressing and hate to waste it. Any ideas for something else it could go on? Green beans or a leafy green salad? Thanks again!

        • Pamela says:

          Most definitely! I did a similar salad for FitSugar (video’s on my homepage) with quinoa, asparagus and golden beets. I also have another salad on my site with the mint dressing on asparagus with walnuts and feta. I have also used the dressing on green beans. You can use it on chicken or fish over salad greens. Oh, and I almost forgot, I did a grilled potato salad with green beans and walnuts and the mint dressing. Now that I think about it, I love zucchini with mint, too.

  2. Suzy says:

    Made this for a really health-conscience crowd and they all had seconds! It was great. Made the farro ahead in the rice maker and it was perfect.

    • Pamela says:

      This is one of my favorite salads, Suzy. So thrilled your guests enjoyed it. Smart idea to cook the farro in a rice cooker! Thanks!

  3. Leah says:

    I just made this salad and it is amazing! It is refreshing and delicious! Thank you so much Pamala!

    • Pamela says:

      You’re welcome! If you like the dressing, you can use it on many other salad combinations (green beans, potatoes, asparagus.) Thanks!

  4. Lauren says:

    My husband LOVED this salad! So refreshing and light, but still completely filling and satisfying! Quick question, what do you do with the left over beet greens?

    • Pamela says:

      Excellent question! Use beet greens the way you would Swiss chard. They taste exactly the same (they’re actually related.) Sauteed, chopped up into soups, stews, pastas, juiced….

  5. Kathy says:

    Made this tonight using your substitution suggestions: roasted asparagus (cut into 1″), walnuts, feta and the mint dressing. AMAZING!!!

    • Pamela says:

      I am crazy for this dressing on many combinations. Now that you’ve tried asparagus, you’re ready for green beans and potatoes. Also a winner!

  6. Faith Lyons says:

    Pamela, we just love this dish and have made it many times since learning it last summer. When we serve it to guests they always rave. And it’s my daughter’s fave, also!

  7. Janet Anderson says:

    My word, this is good, Pamela. I don’t care for feta so I used fresh mozzarella, and it is delicious! Thanks!

    • Pamela says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it and that you could look past the feta and find a better substitute for you. Thanks for your feedback!

  8. Kim says:

    I really loved this salad! Thank you. Question – i purchased Organic Emmer Farro vs pearled farro ( i think it was pearled)…do you know the difference? I had to cook the Farro longer than indicated but it was great. I was so intimidated about roasting, peeling beets. It was easy but took about an hour. your pictures helped so much. I gave myself plenty of time so it was no big deal but you may want to explain how to do this…i put beets in a pan with a little olive oil and covered it and put my oven on roast. I felt so accomplished when it all turned out great. thank you once again!

    • Pamela says:

      Pearled farro is like pearled barley — the outside bran layer has been polished off a bit so you lose some fiber and nutrition. I appreciate your feedback about the beets — thank you! You’re not the first person to ask me. I amended the recipe to direct new beet cookers to another recipe I did earlier this year that used roasted beets. Preparing them to roast just takes a minute, but yes, they take a while to cook in the oven. Good job figuring it out!

  9. sonia says:

    I can’t wait to try this. I love all the ingredients in the salad.

  10. Barbara says:

    Looks yummy; is this best served room temp or chilled? – Also, thanks for inspiring me to plant herbs! If you need an idea; with my MINT which has gone wild I just invented a great summer drink since it is so hot here in NC @ 101 degrees!! Using my blendtec I put in 1 cup cooled brewed black or green tea, 1 whole peeled lime,3Tbs+ fresh MINT leaves, (drop of agave if needed) and ice cubes. Blend and stay cool! (I’m thinking poolside: sweet tea vodka would be great in it!)

    • Pamela says:

      I prefer this salad at room temperature. In fact, I prefer to eat most foods not cold (better for digestion.) I love your iced tea idea, though. Wow! That sounds really refreshing. I’m definitely going to try it. Thanks!

  11. Kathy says:

    This is one of my favorite salads! My kids don’t like beets so I make it with purple yams (available at GROW) and it is just as pretty with the bright purple color instead of gold!

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