I finally got around to trying the farro that I purchased awhile back from Trader Joe’s. The mood to cook something suddenly overcame me and I remembered the farro sitting in the pantry. Off to Pinterest I went and after scrolling through a bunch of recipes I hit on two that looked really tasty.
This was my first time cooking and tasting farro and if I had to describe it I’d say it’s a cross between barley and oats. Let me just say I’m not the biggest fan of barley. In my opinion barley has a strong, distinctive flavor that I’m not crazy about. The only time I’ll eat is is when it’s in a beef & barley soup and only then as a last resort.
Farro resembles barley in it’s shape and slight chewiness but has a more neutral, subtle nutty flavor like oats. If you like old-fashioned rolled oats I think you’ll dig farro.
I didn’t have all of the ingredients that either recipe called for so I used them as jumping-off points and substituted whatever I had in my fridge and pantry and added in some extras that I thought would be tasty. Prosciutto and sunflower seeds aren’t things I usually have on hand so I subbed bacon and some toasted, chopped almonds instead. Kale’s also not a vegetable that I use often except in soups sometimes, so I swapped in chicory which is a bitter green like kale but with more crunch.
The prep work was rather time consuming. I had to saute the chicory with some garlic before adding it to one salad (I threw some onions into the pan too because I thought that would be tasty), the almonds had to be toasted and then roughly chopped, the cucumbers needed to be diced, my cranberries were a little too dry/hard so I soaked them in some hot water first to soften, the cauliflower and bacon had to be fried, and I decided to cut up some mozzarella and grapes just because. After that it was a matter of tossing all of the ingredients together and dressing them.
Of the two salads I was the most excited about the one with the fried cauliflower but I ended up not caring for it much. It felt really heavy because of the fried ingredients; that’s why I added the green grapes but even then it still seemed too rich. The flavors also fell a little flat and needed something more punchy. If I had to do the recipe again I’d use a more aggressive dressing, like maybe a mustard-based vinaigrette, and I’d add an ingredient with some crunch. Frying the cauliflower and bacon beforehand didn’t really do much because they softened once they were tossed with the dressing. A crunchy vegetable, nuts or even seasoned croutons at the last minute would’ve been great.
Between the two recipes the one with cucumbers and greens was my clear favorite and I’d make it again. I sauteed the chicory until the dark green leaves were slightly wilted and the stems tender crisp so they still had some crunch. I highly recommend adding toasted nuts; the almonds were really lovely and added some nice flavor and crunch. The dressing and cranberries gave the salad a slightly tart, slightly sweet balanced flavor. Overall, yum. Mozzarella was the only cheese I had that day so that’s what I used but I bet a stronger tasting cheese like feta would be good in this.