It’s the time of year for making a big cold salad and putting it in the refrigerator. Then you’ve got something ready to go alongside grilled meat or fish on a warm evening, or a quick scoop of lunch without effort.
I like to think about all of the happy people with warm feet who are sitting out on their patio right now enjoying the summer and eating a nice salad, maybe even drinking a cold beer. These warm thoughts help me get through June in Seattle–a particularly cold and trying June, wherein I am still turning on the heat in the house regularly, wearing a sweater, and quietly despairing of ever being warm again.
No matter. A really hearty grain salad is good any time of year, in any climate. I stirred up this Farro Salad with Preserved Lemons so that I’d have something filling and tasty in the refrigerator last weekend when my friend Christie came for a visit, even though we had to eat dinner inside to avoid hypothermia.
I set out to make a salad, not a metaphor, but…the farro had the delightful chewiness of a long conversation with an old friend. The tang of lemon juice and the salty bright notes of preserved lemon and feta cheese echoed the little jokes and sudden giggles that punctuate comfortable time spent together and make them sparkle. We nibbled away at it all weekend and if anything, the flavor improved over time.
In my experience, cooking times for farro vary quite a bit—it can take anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes to achieve the perfect level of tenderness but retain the snappy firm quality that makes farro stand up so well in this salad. Keep an eye on it, and fish out a grain to taste every so often until it is cooked just right, then drain and rinse to stop the cooking process.
Preserved lemons and Za’atar give this salad a distinctly Moroccan feel. My local co-op has preserved lemons in the olive bar, and I picked up Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, at World Spice Merchants here in Seattle.
But if you are unable to find either of these you can leave them out. Just add a teaspoon or so of salt to compensate for the lack of the oh-so-salty preserved lemons. The salad will be fine without the Za’atar, but immensely better with its smoky depth. As in, “Where have you been all my life, Za’atar?”
Farro Salad with Preserved Lemons
- 1 ½ cups farro
- Juice of two fresh lemons
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ½ cup diced orange bell pepper
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 cup diced English cucumber
- ½ tsp Za’atar
- 1 preserved lemon
- 1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
Place farro in large saucepan and half fill saucepan with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until farro is tender but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Dice preserved lemon (skin and all) and rinse briefly to remove excess salt.
Combine farro and all other ingredients, stirring well. Let sit in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, stir again, then taste for salt. The diced preserved lemons will add a significant hit of salt to the salad—more may not be needed.