Thursday, January 28, 2010

Warm Farro Salad with Squash and Chickpeas

As cliche as it may be, one of my New Years resolutions was to eat healthier. More whole grains, daily fruits and vegetables, less processed carbs and snacks. A month into January, I can't say I've followed up on that (or any of my resolutions) 100%, but I have cooked a few new healthy vegetarian recipes I thought some of you might like to know about.

First up is this warm winter farro salad inspired by a "fall" farro salad I had a few months ago at The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights with pumpkin, nuts, parmesan, and poached egg. The farro salad was one of the most memorable parts of that overpriced, small plates evening, so I set out to recreate my own version recently. Squash substitutes well for pumpkin and is just as available at the local farmers market in winter as in fall. I wasn't easily able to find farro at the Park Slope Food Coop (though I now know where to find it there), so I was pleasantly surprised to find it at my farmers market instead - from Cayuga Pure Organics in Ithaca, which isn't exactly local, but probably much closer than the coop's source.

I'm now obsessed with farro. It's plumper and toothier than brown rice, but easier to cook, since it doesn't become a starchy gluey mess like all of my rice attempts. Be prepared to wait a while for it to cook. I didn't soak mine overnight and the cooking felt like forever, probably an hour or so, so I do recommend letting it soak for a day first. More detailed instructions on how to cook faro can be found here.

While researching farro, I also found a similar squash and farro recipe over on 101 Cookbooks. But my version includes chickpeas for protein and lots of garlic for flavor. I make big batches of chickpeas at one time and then freeze them in cup-size portions in old glass jars, so for this I was able to just defrost some pre-cooked chickpeas by running water into the jar to loosen the frozen chickpeas and then heating them up in a small pot of simmering water. (While you could use canned chickpeas, I don't recommend that because the BPA lining in cans is getting more and more attention lately as a potential health hazard.)

The soft and sweet carmelized roasted squash is the perfect foil to nutty, crunchy farro here, and the combination of chickpeas and farro was hearty enough for the resident vegetarian naysayer. I think the zest and juice of half a lemon would be a nice addition to the salad, as well, but I didn't have that on hand.

Warm Farro Salad with Squash and Chickpeas
1 cup farro
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 small butternut squash
1 small head of garlic
1/4 shaved parmesan
olive oil
zest and juice of half lemon (optional)

Let farro soak in water in a covered pot overnight. Add enough water to reach the height of the first joint of your index finger above the farro in the pot. Bring to boil and then simmer covered for 20 minutes or more until it reaches your desired crunchiness.
Preheat oven to 450. Peel and cube butternut squash. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for approximately 20 minutes until browned; flip cubes and roast additional 10-15 minutes until other side is browned and squash is fully tender.
Mince garlic and set aside. Use a cheese scraper to shave parmesan into small pieces and set aside.
Combine cooked farro, chickpeas, squash, garlic, and half the parmesan in a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and top with remaining parmesan shavings to serve. Makes 3-4 servings.


  1. I've never heard of farro (maybe we call it something different over here?!) but this looks delicious! I made something similar the other night with rye, lentils, squash and broccoli. I think some parmesan would have been a good addition, and also the lemon you mention - whole packet of rye to use up so I'll try some of that next time. Really satisfying food.

  2. Yum! I've not dealt with farro before, it's on the list of things that scare me slightly and I worry I won't get it to turn out right. Maybe I need to get over that fear. This looks really comforting.

  3. this looks amazing, julia! ps. i've missed your posts the last two weeks. it made me happy to see a yummy recipe on your site.

  4. ah! THAT's what that is. i was given a bag of farro and had no idea what to do with it. i'm definitely making this. thanks chica!

  5. how GOOD would that be with a poached egg over it?

  6. LK - hm and likewise, i'm not sure exactly what would be rye here - rye berries? which i am not sure i have come across, but will add to my list of things to try.

    October12 - there is not much to fear except making sure you have plenty of time to cook it, unless you like really crunchy farro.

    Giovanna - thanks for thinking of me! i've missed being here but sometimes life makes it hard to find time to post.

    Meag - oh how fortuitous! - give that big bag of grain a try.

    Celia - yes! i'm slowly coming around to the beauty of adding poached eggs to everything. and working on my poaching technique.

  7. This looks so delicious! Do you have any good sweet potato recipes? I love sweet potatoes but I fear I'm getting boring in the way I cook them (cut up in tiny pieces with ginger, cinnamon and cumin sprinkled on top)

  8. Marisa - no sorry i'm actually not a big fan of sweet potatoes so i never cook them.

  9. I keep meaning to make these because I somehow magically have every single ingredient, but I always forget to soak my farro and chickpeas. Grrr.

    Looks yums!