The fresh vegetables make this salad a perfect and colorful dish to celebrate the flavors of summer. Farro is an ancient grain, a variety of wheat called emmer. It was used by the Etruscans, Egyptians and the Romans. Nowadays it is cultivated especially in northern Tuscany, in the province of Lucca. Farro has a delicious nutty and earthy texture that makes it a wonderful choice for entrees, soups, side dishes and salads. It is a versatile ingredient, as well as being highly nutritious. Farro is an ancient grain, rich in protein, dietary fiber and magnesium; it is a good source of vitamin A, C, E and vitamin B complex, and it is low in fat. It has a pretty low glycemic index, making it also suitable for diabetics too. Farro contains gluten but it is more fragile and more water soluble than the one of wheat, which makes it easier to digest. You use farro perlato (pearled farro, from which a portion of the outer bran has been removed) instead of whole farro, because it cooks faster and does not requiring soaking. In fact, farro perlato cooks in only 20 minutes. This is a quick, easy and tasty recipe to prepare, something you can eat either warm or cold, an healthy lunch to take to work. The sautéed and sweetly flavored vegetables combined with the nutty farro make an irresistible vegetarian dish.
INSALATA DI FARRO E VERDURE (FARRO AND VEGETABLE SALAD)
350 g (2 cups) farro or farro perlato (cooking time is different)
8 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 red chili pepper, finely sliced
3 carrots, finely cubed
1 red pepper, finely cubed
1 fennel, finely cubed
3 zucchini, finely cubed
250 g (2 cups) frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley, basil or mint for decoration
1. Rinse the farro in cold water and drain
2. Bring 4 cups of salted water (about 7 g, 1 ½ teaspoons of salt) to boil, add the farro, reduce heat and cook covered with a lid for 20 minutes or longer (cook according to the directions on the package). It should be firm and chewy
3. While the farro is cooking, in a non-stick pan sauté onion, garlic and red chilli pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring frequently
4. Add the carrots and pepper, toss for a few minutes
5. Add the fennel and zucchini, cook for 5 minutes. At this point add the peas and cook for additional 3-4 minutes stirring a few times to prevent burning. Remove the garlic cloves. Add some salt and pepper to taste. The cooking time for the vegetables can vary according to your taste: crispy versus soft and well cooked. I go for crispy!
6. After 20 minutes drain the farro and add it to the vegetables. Toss to mix all the ingredients well! You can serve it either warm or cold. Decorate with fresh parsley, basil or mint.
Note: Instead of farro perlato you can use regular farro (cooking time is different) or any large grain. I would suggest brown rice for a gluten free version. You can also add some raisins (about 100 g, 1/2 cup) to the vegetables (with the carrots and peppers) to add a sweet flavor to the dish. – Paola