Lemon tarragon farro salad
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Lemon tarragon farro salad

This recipe makes a great weekday meal, but it’s beautiful enough to serve for Shabbat as a side dish.

Lemon tarragon farro salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Lemon tarragon farro salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)

As spring approaches, I start turning away from the comfort foods of winter and lean heavily into whole-grain foods based on the Mediterranean diet. Whole grains like farro keep your blood sugar level and your stomach full.

What I love most about salads are the toppings. I treat each separate grain, vegetable, nut and fruit as a special topping, which makes me feel like I have an elevated salad bar at home. This recipe has chickpeas, tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, carrots and pistachios for extra crunch. Tarragon is my favorite fresh herb to keep on hand. It has a faint anise flavor that is delightful.

The farro bulks up the salad so that’s it filling enough to have for dinner. You can add jammy soft-boiled eggs, goat or feta cheese, or leftover fish or chicken for extra protein.

The base of this salad is vegan. That’s my favorite kind of recipe because it allows you to get creative and use up any specialty items that may be left over from the night before. It makes a great weekday meal, but it’s beautiful enough to serve for Shabbat as a side dish.

This recipe includes instructions for making quick pickled onions to mix in. If you prefer salad onions in a restaurant more than you do at home, it’s most likely because the restaurant pickled them.

1 cup whole grain farro (not parboiled or instant)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 clove of garlic
Juice from one large lemon, about ⅛ cup
¾ cup good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons freshly chopped tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
4-5 grinds fresh black pepper, about ⅛ teaspoon

½ of a medium red onion
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
5 to 6 ounces of arugula or spring mix
1 cup of Persian cucumbers, sliced
1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup of carrots, sliced. Multicolored carrots are especially pretty.
½ cup unsalted pistachios, roughly hand-chopped
1 tablespoon of whole tarragon leaves to garnish

In a 3-quart saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Rinse 1 cup of whole-grain farro in a strainer. Add the farro when the water is boiling. Allow it to cook for a minute or two before reducing the heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

As soon as you set the timer for the farro, peel and thinly slice half of a medium-sized red onion.

In a small bowl mix, ¼ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of water and ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt to make a quick pickle solution. Add the onions to the solution, which should cover the onions completely. Add a little more vinegar and water to cover them, if necessary. Allow the onions to rest for at least 30 minutes. You can make extra if you like; these keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Lemon tarragon farro salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Next, prepare the lemon tarragon dressing. I use a Ball jar for making and storing dressings. Add a fresh clove of minced garlic, ⅛ cup of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of honey, ¾ cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper and 2 teaspoons of finely chopped tarragon leaves to the jar. Put the lid on the jar securely, and shake it for about 30 seconds or until the oil is emulsified. You will have just enough dressing to prepare the salad.

Wash the lettuce, then wash and chop the vegetables. Chop the pistachios and set them aside. Rinse and drain the chickpeas; set aside.

Strain the onions after 30 minutes. I usually cover the bowl with my hands, pour the solution off and use my hands to press any additional liquid out of them.

After 40 minutes, the farro should be cooked. If you see water at the bottom of the pan, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove it from the heat, and cover it with a lid for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and, stir the dressing into the warm farro. Let it rest uncovered until it reaches room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Farro has a wonderful, nutty chew similar to brown rice. It’s fairly plain-tasting on its own but comes to life when you add flavor. You can make this ahead and refrigerate it if you’d like; just bring it to room temperature before mixing it with the vegetables.

How to serve this salad is up to you. You can place the salad greens on a platter and layer them with the farro and vegetables. You can mound each chopped vegetable separately onto the farro, or you can mix it all and serve in a bowl, saving the pistachios for the topping. You can add more fresh lemon juice and salt to taste, but it won’t need any additional oil — it has the perfect amount.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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