Everything tastes better when you eat it outdoors. Whether you’re coming back to camp after a day of hiking or gathering with friends at a picnic site, dining in the great outdoors is somehow festive.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a potluck picnic. Picnics can be tricky because food often sits out for a period of time. I like to bring food that tastes good at “room” temperature. As a vegetarian, I never know if others will bring substantial meatless dishes—or any meatless dishes. So I bring a dish that, on its own, will satisfy my nutritional needs in case there aren’t other options.
Bean and grain salads fit the bill nicely. I’ve been enjoying cooking with uncommon, ancient grains recently (I’ll share another recipe starring an unfamiliar grain soon). Farro has a substantial, chewy texture. It combines well with lighter herbs and veggies.
I chose this recipe partly because I have a bounty of fresh herbs in my garden right now, all the ones listed in the recipe, including lemon thyme. The recipe comes from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. In the book, it’s titled “Michele Anna Jordan’s Spring Farro Salad.” The recipe doesn’t include asparagus, but I added it in because it’s so good at this time of year. This makes a whole lot of food. I took a big container to the potluck and kept some at home for later.
Meatless Monday: Herbed Farro with Asparagus
- 2 cups farro
- 3 tablespoons sea salt (I used 2 tablespoons and it was still way salty. Next time I make this salad, I’ll probably try using just one.)
- juice of 2 lemons, plus more if needed
- 6 green onions, white and green parts, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, marjoram, tarragon, lemon thyme and snipped chives
- 8 ounces sheep feta, drained and crumbled
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
- freshly milled pepper
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and sliced diagonally in 1-1/2-inch pieces
- Put the farro into a strainer, rinse under cool running water, and transfer to a medium saucepan.
- Add water to cover plus 3 inches, stir in the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that forms on the top. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the farro is tender but toothsome, 35 to 45 minutes, or possibly longer. Taste it periodically to determine when you think it’s done. (Soaking the farro overnight reduces the cooking time by half.)
- Drain and taste for salt. If it’s too salty for your taste, give it a rinse. Transfer to a wide, shallow serving bowl, drizzle with lemon juice, and let cool for 15 minutes. Cover with a tea towel for up to 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus: Toss sliced asparagus in 1-2 tablespoons of oil and roast at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Add the green onions, herbs and crumbled feta to the farro. Drizzle with olive oil. Test for tartness: add more lemon juice if it’s not tart enough. If it’s too tart, add more olive oil.
- When the asparagus is cool, toss it into the salad.