Grain-based salads are my norm, my go-to, my default. Paired with seasonal veggies and a little protein from cheese or nuts or an egg, grain-based salads are a great dinner-to-lunch-the-next-day meal.
I work at a bakery that also carries some miscellaneous knickknacks for purchase like NYC soil, cocoa nibs, kale chips, random books on bicycles, dog toys, kombucha, and…emmer Farro from Cayuga Pure Organics! After gawking at the farro for weeks and weeks, I finally brought some home to “sample” the product.
Farro is one of those nutty grains that when cooked should be soft with a slight bite to it. Farro is typically combined with Italian or Mediterranean flavors, but you could definitely experiment. Some people even like to make a risotto using farro, or to sweeten it and call it breakfast.
I recently listened to an episode of WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Food Fridays show about grains that I found very interesting…check it out here. In that same episode, he speaks to Melissa Clark from the NYTimes Dining section about packing lunch, and she has some good words to say about farro.
One of my nutrition professors recommended buying the overwintered greens at the farmer’s market right now. From what I’ve read, overwintered greens are super sweet and only available for a short time…right NOW! These are greens that have been planted in the fall, their shoots and leaves die off in the winter frost, but the roots remain and lend new stems emerging from the sweet roots.
I never knew about this before, and after tasting this spinach, it really is a treat.
Very anxious for spring produce, which is just barely starting to show up in the markets now, I was excited to try this overwintered spinach in combination with the first asparagus of the season. Indeed this is a transition meal, as the weather is finally starting to be consistently “nice” here in NYC.
I added some Vermont Creamery goat cheese to the salad, which I imagine would be perfect with spring strawberries (which I hope to see at the market soon…we still just have apples here in NY…), drizzled with some aged balsamic.
Farro Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Wintered Spinach
**NOTE: if you don’t have farro, you could always substitute with Israeli couscous, orzo, quinoa, millet, rice, wild rice, wheat berries…etc.
1 cup farro, soaked in water for at least 4 hours
1 bunch asparagus
1 clove garlic
3 handfuls overwintered spinach
1 scallion or spring onion or a 1/4 shallot, thinly sliced/diced/slivered
2 oz goat cheese
extra: salt, pepper, drizzle of balsamic, dash of pesto…
Drain the water from the soaked farro. Place farro in a pot and with water to cover the farro by about an inch. Bring to a boil, and then simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour or until soft but still has a slight chew, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Roast the asparagus with a small drizzle of olive oil and salt for about 15 minutes. Take out of the oven, let cool slightly, and chop on the diagonal into bite-size pieces.
Heat a skillet with a little olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 4-5 minutes.
To assemble: Combine the cooked farro, the asparagus bites, and the garlicky spinach. Toss with crumbled goat cheese, salt, pepper, balsamic, and a dash of pesto. Enjoy!
**You could also make a runny egg and top the farro with it!