Farro is a sturdy grain that stands up well to formidable ingredients like beets, their greens and salty feta cheese. That hardiness and versatility, as well as its sweet, nutty flavor, have made farro a popular option for filling out a salad in order to create a main dish. If you’re in doubt, sliced or shredded poached or roasted chicken would make a nice addition. Either way the farro absorbs color from the red beets, giving the dish a pinkish tint that only deepens as hours pass. (In fact, you can make the dish up to a day ahead. And it travels well, making it fine picnic fare.) Soak the grains for an hour before cooking, and be sure to cook until tender, or else the salad will be chewy.
- 2 medium or 3 small beets (any color) with greens, the beets roasted, the greens stemmed and washed in two changes of water
- 1 cup farro, soaked for one hour in water to cover and drained
- Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 small garlic clove, minced or pureed
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (may substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons walnut oil for 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil)
- ½ cup broken walnut pieces
- 2 ounces feta or goat cheese, crumbled (more if desired for garnish)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, marjoram, chives, mint
- Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the greens. Blanch for two minutes, and transfer to the ice water. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.
- Bring the water back to a boil, and add the farro. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the farro is tender. Remove from the heat and allow the grains to swell in the cooking water for 10 minutes, then drain.
- While the farro is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegars, salt, garlic and mustard. Whisk in the oil(s). Add to the farro. Peel and dice the beets and add, along with the beet greens, feta or goat cheese, herbs and walnuts. Toss together, and serve warm or room temperature with a little more cheese sprinkled over the top if you wish.
Tip: The roasted beets and cooked beet greens will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator, and the cooked farro for five days. You can assemble this salad hours or even a day ahead; it will redden with time.