Using a New-Fangled Ancient Grain: Warm Farro Salad


Some of you out there probably beat me to using farro, an ancient form of wheat that is very useful cooked whole the way anyone might use barley, for instance. I’ve been reading about it, and saw some at the store so picked it up thinking I’d give it a try. It sat around a while.

What pushed it over the edge and into dinner was seeing it on a favorite food website, Food 52, mixed with roasted vegetables as a warm salad. For some reason that really appealed, so I decided farro’s time had come in my kitchen.

The first time we cook a grain or pasta, the big question is how long to boil it. The best advice I saw about farro was to treat it like pasta: bring a lot of water to a boil, add the farro and cook until it is tender. It might take twenty minutes, it might take longer even a half-hour to forty minutes, depending on how long your farro has been sitting around in a store or your pantry, far from its native heath. When it is cooked to your taste as far as chewiness is concerned, drain it, and proceed with whatever you want to do with it.

Like rice, or orzo, (or millet or quinoa, if you ever use those) farro can be eaten hot or cold, with fresh chopped vegetables or cooked ones, with just about any kind of salad dressing on it (I wouldn’t prefer creamy ones but there is no law saying you can’t use mayo or Ranch if you like them.) I had some leftover roasted root vegetables—carrots, turnips, beets–with a bit of roasted squash mixed in. I added those, decided to use balsamic vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of raw chopped shallot.

For some reason or other, now that eggs have regained favor, some modern cooks fry an egg to plop on top of dishes like this. If the egg is a little runny, the yolk becomes a sauce, and you end up with a bit of cheap protein to go with your vegetables and whole-grain. Nice. I did that, too, and ended up with a very tidy little supper. Additionally, I put the grain salad on top of a little shredded lettuce.

If you are a do-ahead kind of person, having a bit if cooked farro in the fridge is a fine idea. You can sprinkle it into a green salad; mix it into a stir-fry; use it as you would rice or pasta under meat or fish; or add it to soup.

The recipe below is meant to be a set of guidelines. Farro doesn’t swell up as much as rice or pasta does, so when planning quantities don’t expect as much yield as you would get from those.

Using a New-Fangled Ancient Grain: Warm Farro Salad
Serves: 2-3
  • 1 cup uncooked farro
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt
  • 2 cups roasted, steamed or stir-fried vegetables, your choice
  • Vinaigrette
  • Chopped shallot, optional
  • 1 egg per person, optional
  1. Bring the water to a boil, adding a dash of salt
  2. Add the farro, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer.
  3. Check after the first fifteen to twenty minutes for tenderness, and cook longer if needed to achieve chewiness.
  4. Meanwhile, reheat the vegetables, then when the farro is done, drain it.
  5. Toss together the farro and vegetables, including the shallot if used, dribbling in the vinaigrette to taste.
  6. Add a fried egg on top, if you wish.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.