Food + Wine
Mediterranean Farro Salad with Balsamic Pickled Beets
I’m a big salad person. Love me some salads. What I do not love is a wimpy pile of lettuce with a couple cherry tomatoes on top and a side of something bottled. No, I like some depth to my salads. Whether it’s topping them with interesting proteins, roasted vegetables, fresh herbs or whole grains, I like my salads to be more than green.
I’ve been known to create a lunch salad out of whatever leftovers I may have in the fridge, and they’re always delicious. So this salad came to be in sort of the same way. I had some raw beets, leftover farro, the end of a brick of my favorite feta, and some other odds and ends that ended up becoming one killer salad.
So I thought I’d share it with you! This salad is healthy, hearty, amazingly delicious and I’m just happy I made enough for my lunch the next day!!
*First off- the star of the salad…
(*note- if you really, really, really, really don’t wanna make your own pickled beets (although I highly recommend you do!!) then you can buy them in the can, drain and rinse them, and toss with balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper. You shouldn’t need to add any sweetener, as the canned variety is chock-full of sugar.)
We begin by dry-roasting the beets, (and I like to make a lot of these because they stay good in the fridge for weeks if sealed properly), so take one bunch of red beets (this is 3-4 beets, depending on their size, and I prefer organic, which happens to be the same price as conventional at my store) and trim off each end, leaving just the bulb. Save the leaves to be used for something else-this salad even!!. Take each bulb and wrap tightly in 2 layers of heavy duty foil and place on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours, and allow to remain in the foil packets for 20 minutes or so before removing. They will still be warm.
Carefully remove the warm beets from the foil and using food-safe rubber gloves or a paper towel, simply rub the outer skin off of each beet. It will come right off. Slice each beet in half from root to end and then slice each half into thick ‘slivers’. Add to a glass bowl along with 1/2 a yellow onion, thinly sliced. While the beets are still warm, pour in about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, a good drizzle of agave nectar, and season well with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Toss well and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary- the liquid should be slightly sweet and tangy. Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour if possible (stirring occasionally), or, once cooled, in the fridge if you’re doing this step ahead. This recipe makes a lot of pickled beets, most likely more than you will need for this particular recipe, so throw them on other salads throughout the week, serve them with cheese as an appetizer, or just eat them alone like I do!
*And now the supporting cast…
(You can also make extra of this, as it will keep in the fridge for a couple days to be used in other salads or even soups. You could cook up some cooked farro in a skillet with olive oil, onions and garlic, and any other leftover veggies, and add some whisked eggs and cheese to make a unique omelet!)
For this recipe you will need 2 cups of cooked farro and to do that you begin with 1 cup of dried farro in a saucepan…add 2 cups of water and a good pinch of kosher salt…bring to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat to low. Gently cook on low for about 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender, but still has a slight bite to it, and all or most of the liquid has been absorbed. Drain off any excess water and set farro aside.
*For the salad assembly
You will need:
•1/2 standard cucumber, seeded and cubed
•1 large, ripe Haas avocado, sliced
•3-4 ounces, or desired amount of good quality sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled
•Small handful of fresh mint leaves, minced
•Good quality extra virgin olive oil
•Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
On your serving dish, place cooked farro in the center. Sprinkle on your cubed cucumber, on one side of the farro arrange the avocado slices, and on the other side place as many of your pickled beets and onions as you’d like. Along the center, place your feta. Spoon on as much of your pickled beet liquid as you feel necessary and drizzle over everything. Top with the mint and give it all a good drizzle of the olive oil. Season with more salt and a good amount of cracked black pepper.
Serve alone as a light lunch, or on the side of your favorite protein.