Heidi Krahling, the chef of Insalata’s in San Anselmo, California, is adamant that the best—or only— way to cook farro is to sauté the kernels with onion and olive oil before adding any liquid.
The convenient part about this method is that there is enough olive oil added to the farro in the cooking process that you don’t have to add any when making a salad with cooked farro.
For this farro preparation, I added roasted squash and golden raisins soaked in red-wine vinegar. Along with minced preserved lemon rind, I loaded up the vinaigrette with lots of parsley, mint, green onions, and shallot. A spoonful of honey echoed the sweetness in the roasted squash. This all went into a Mason jar for a good solid shake with vinegar. Result: the mild flavors of the preserved lemons played well in the farro salad, but day two, the grains needed a squeeze of lemon to bring it back to life. So lemon juice or vinegar is essential, even though this will cause the herbs to darken.
Some review if you’ve never cooked with preserved lemons before:
Rinse those rinds well. There are two schools of thought on how to do so. Either set them under cool running water for about 15 minutes or soak them in a bowl, changing out the water occasionally, for a few hours. (Soaked wedges can be stored for a week or so in the refrigerator if you want to work ahead. Remove the pulp and pith before using. You can save the pulp and purée it up with some cold butter for a fancy salted lemon butter. Or just toss it. Cut the pith off with a sharp knife, shaving it off the rind but leaving the rind whole as much as possible.
Winter Farro Salad
Serves 4 to 6
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup farro
- 1½ cups to 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 pound winter squash, such as kabocha or butternut, peeled, seeded, and diced
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 2 wedges preserved lemons
- ¼ cup golden raisins, chopped
- 1 shallot, minced
- ¼ cup red-wine vinegar, or more if needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 5 sprigs mint, stemmed and chopped
- 3 green onions, root end removed, sliced crosswise (white and green parts)
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- A few pinches ground red pepper (optional)
- 1 cup diced fennel
- 1-2 wedges fresh lemons (optional)
To cook the farro: Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the farro, lower the heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until the farro is a deep golden brown and smells toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in 1½ cups water, season with salt, cover and cook until the farro is no longer crunchy, about 30 minutes depending on the farro. If the pot goes dry before the farro is done, add ½ cup of water to the pot at a time. If the farro is done and there is extra water in the pot, drain it before making the salad. You will have about 3½ cups. Cool completely.
Preheat an oven to 400°F. Scatter the squash on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely.
In a small bowl, mix together the raisins, shallot, and ¼ cup vinegar. Let sit for at least 10 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.
Run the lemon wedges under a stream of cool running water for 15 minutes to rinse away excess salt. (Or soak the wedges in a generous amount of water overnight.) Drain the wedges, remove the pulp and pith, and mince the rind.
In a Mason jar or mixing bowl, combine the rind with the parsley, mint, green onion, honey, about 1 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of red pepper. Add the shallots and raisins and soaking vinegar, cap the Mason jar and give it a good shake. (Or stir the ingredients with a spoon.)
Put the farro in a large mixing bowl. Add the roasted squash and fennel and pour the vinaigrette over the top. Mix the salad gently and taste. If it is too acidic and dry, drizzle a good glug of olive oil over the top. If it is flat, squeeze a wedge of lemon or two over the top or add a splash of vinegar. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Makes about 4 cups.