Me and farro. We got a thing going on.
I don't know what it is about this humble little grain that makes my heart flutter, but I do know that I'm head over heels. Every time I stumble across a farro recipe online, I bookmark it. Every time I see it on a restaurant menu, I order it. Every time I'm stumped on what to cook for dinner, its the first ingredient that comes to mind. Just like clockwork.
It is this very instinct that led me to make toasted farro salad with roasted leeks and root vegetables this week. A colleague of mine sent me the link to this recipe a few weeks back for a dinner party, and I've now cooked it four other times since. This salad mixes farro with roasted turnips and rutabagas, two ingredients I had little experience working with before but am now a huge fan. The turnips give the dish a pleasant bitterness, while the rutabagas add a buttery richness. Combined with the delicate oniony flavor of the leeks, creaminess of the feta, and freshness of the herbs, its like the best of Spring in a bowl. And very healthy to boot.
The nice thing about this salad is that it gets better as it sits, which makes it a great dish to keep in the refrigerator all week long. You can also add in pretty much any combination of vegetables you desire--carrots, squash, yams, turnips, and yellow/red onions would all work beautifully.
Toasted Farro Salad with Roasted Leeks and Root Vegetables
Adapted from Elizabeth Stark (Food52)
1 large turnip, trimmed, peeled, and sliced in 1/2 inch-thick half moons
1 large rutabaga, trimmed, peeled, and sliced in to 1/2 inch-thick half moons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup dry farro
Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tablespoons juice
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced dill
1/4 cup cubed or crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line one large and one small baking sheet with parchment paper.
Trim the dark green section from the leeks and halve lengthwise. Immerse leeks in water for a minute or two. Remove from the water and shake out any sand and excess water. Trim the roots, and cut each half into 3-inch segments. Place the leeks on the small baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.
Place the turnips and rutabaga on the large sheet tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.
Slide both baking sheets into the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Use a spatula to sporadically flip the turnips and rutabaga. The leeks should roast for 20-25 minutes, until soft and browned around the edges. Roast the turnips and rutabagas until they are tender and the edges are nicely browned, 30 to 35 minutes total.
Cook the farro: Set a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the dry farro, and, shaking the pan frequently, toast just until the farro browns slightly and is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the farro to the salted water and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the farro still has a little bite. Drain, toss with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 tablespoons minced parsley, and set aside.
Toss the feta with 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, sea salt, pepper, and a tablespoon each minced parsley and dill.
To plate the salad, toss the farro with the roasted turnips and rutabagas. Top with roasted leeks, crumbled feta, and remaining dill and parsley, and toss gently.
**The first photograph in this post was taken on an afternoon walk along the Huron River in Ann Arbor, MI