Friday, June 21, 2013

Farro, Kale & Smoked Mozzarella Salad

Last Year's Post: Easy and Elegant Summer Salad with Cheese, Fruit and Nuts

I was having a bad day a few weeks ago and stopped at the deli counter of my local grocer to pick up dinner (yes, even food bloggers do it).  They had a new farro salad that looked interesting so I tried it and really liked it - so much that I emailed them (ever so politely) and asked for the recipe.  They replied (ever so politely) that unfortunately they could not supply the recipe "because it was not scaled for consumer use".  Right.  Guess what - send me the big version and together with my calculator we can figure out the consumer version.  Actually, I didn't send them that reply (although I wanted to) because I knew it was pointless.  Grrrr.  Now aggravated, I decided to come up with my own version.  That would show them!  I printed out 4 or 5 different farro salad ideas before creating this one.  I like the mix of ingredients but of course you can always substitute your favorites.

The three most important ingredients are farro, kale and smoked mozzarella (you probably figured that out from the title, right?). Farro and kale may be new to you. Farro (fahr-oh) has become very popular lately in the United States, but it's an ancient grain believed to have once been consumed by the Roman legions and eaten in Italy ever since. Farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice with a chewy (not soft) texture. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. Due to its chewy texture, farro is quite filling.  You can find farro in some upscale grocery stores or in natural food stores.  If you don't feel like trying farro, you could always substitute brown rice or barley.

cooked farro
Kale is a leafy green with more vitamins and antioxidants than even spinach, which explains why it's become so popular.  When raw, it's a tough and bitter green but when blanched for a brief period it becomes softer and the bitterness disappears. You strip the leaves off the tough stems, chop them up, boil the leaves for about a minute, then drain. The bright green color is attractive in salads and the health benefits are great.  If you don't want to try kale, substitute raw baby spinach instead.

In addition to farro and kale, the salad contains cherry tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, herbs and smoked mozzarella.
I found these cute little multi-colored cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe's

It's a healthy summer alternative to heavier foods and an opportunity to try new ingredients.  Of course you could serve it as a side salad to grilled meats and it also makes a great salad for a potluck picnic because it doesn't wilt, but we like to eat it on its own - there's plenty of fiber and protein to keep you satisfied.  It also makes a great lunch for work the next day.

printable recipe
Farro, Kale & Smoked Mozzarella Salad
Serves 6 to 8

Note:  to seed a cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds down its length.

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallots
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
12 oz farro, rinsed
½ head kale, leaves stripped off steams and chopped into bite-sized pieces
6 oz smoked mozzarella, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
6 green onions, finely chopped
½ cucumber (or 1/3 English cucumber), unpeeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup chopped chives
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

 Place the red wine vinegar in a small bowl.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Add the shallots and salt and pepper, then set aside.

Place the farro in a large pot and cover with water by about 3 inches.  Set over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, 15-18 minutes.  Drain, rinse, and drain again.  Set aside to cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the kale pieces and boil 60-90 seconds until bright green.  Drain and immediately place the kale pieces in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Drain thoroughly and pat dry.

Put the farro in a large bowl; add the kale, mozzarella, green onions, and cucumber and toss.  Add the dressing and toss again.  Just before serving, add the chives and fresh basil.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Serve room temperature or cold.


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