It’s still summer, but the hope of fall is in the air. We are still in the cold salad territory, but moving into something heartier. I love this robust grain salad – it’s a change up from a standard pasta salad, but the addition of fresh herbs and cucumbers freshens things up and it makes the most of the end of tomato season with bright baby tomatoes and a tangy fresh tomato vinaigrette. If you haven’t experimented with farro yet, you should give it a try. It’s a healthy whole grain wheat with a slightly nutty, toasty flavor and a substantial texture and bite. I love it in soup, but is so fabulous in this tabbouleh-inspired salad because it beautifully absorbs the dressing. It’s the perfect picnic or grilling side, but is substantial enough to be the main course.
I say here to use a cup of cherry tomatoes, but it can be a little tough to judge. When I find little bitty tomatoes at the farmers market I love their cuteness and usually just cut them in half. Large tomatoes I quarter, but if all you can find in season is large tomatoes, seed them and chop them well. Reserve some of the dressing to stir through right through right before serving – the grain will absorb a lot of it while refrigerated. I also like to chop the cucumber into quite small pieces so every bite of salad has a bite.
Herbed Farro Salad with Fresh Tomato Vinaigrette
1 ½ cups farro
3 cups vegetable stock
1 lemon, zested and juiced, divided
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup mint leaves
½ cup Italian parsley leaves
¼ cup cilantro leaves
3 green onions
½ seedless cucumber
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tomato, about 8 ounces
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
Generous grinds of black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
Place the farro in a strainer and rinse well with cool water. Place it in a pot with the vegetable stock, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the grains are tender, but still have a little chew. Drain the farro through the strainer and rinse with cool water. Leave to drain, then transfer to a large bowl. Pour over 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and add the zest and stir to coat. Add the chickpeas and stir to combine.
Finely chop all the herbs and add to the farro. Chop the cucumber into very small pieces, add to the bowl, then chop the green onions finely and add. Half or quarter the cherry tomatoes and stir to combine everything well.
Cut the tomato in half and remove the core and seeds. Place in the carafe of a blender, add the vinegar, honey, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, honey salt and pepper and blend until completely pureed. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until blended and smooth. Pour about ¾ of the dressing over the salad and stir to coat. Reserve the rest of the dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate the salad and remaining dressing for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, you can add some extra dressing if you feel it is needed and season with a little salt if you like.