Two Years Ago: Lemon Polenta Cake
This salad works because of the balance of flavors and textures: chewy farro, slightly bitter kale, sweet cherries, cool cucumber, toasty walnuts, and creamy goat cheese. Farro is a perfect choice for a vegetarian meal because it's a great source of both fiber and protein so it's satisfying and filling. (Of course you could always add cooked chicken or turkey if you really want to.) The kale adds nutritional benefits and, because you're using the slightly more delicate Tuscan kale rather than the sturdier curly kale, it doesn't even need to be blanched before adding to the salad.
The farro needs to be cooked and cooled before adding the other ingredients, so be sure to start an hour or so ahead of eating, or cook the farro the day prior and refrigerate. Then it's a matter of simple, fast chopping and assembly so it makes a great and healthy weeknight meal.
If you're not familiar with farro, it's a rustic Italian grain with a nutty flavor and chewy texture. You can generally find it at health food stores in a package like this, or the bulk aisle of your grocery store.
This particular brand is pearled, which means some of the bran has been removed so it will cook faster. Although brands will vary in cooking time, this one only requires fifteen minutes of simmering. Check your package when you make the recipe. Toasting the farro in olive oil prior to cooking enhances the nutty, toasty flavor.
I decided to partially peel the cucumber in stripes for fun, but you can choose to peel or not. The kale gets washed, stemmed and shredded (or finely chopped) before adding to the salad.
Add in the cherries, veggies, walnuts and goat cheese, and you're good to go.
Farro and Kale Salad
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, diced
1 cup farro, rinsed
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
Juice of ½ orange
5-6 steams Tuscan kale, stemmed and finely chopped
½ cup dried cherries or 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/3 English cucumber, partially peeled, seeds removed and chopped
4 ounces goat cheese
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the shallot and cook, stirring often, until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and toast in the olive oil, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. Stir in two cups of water, the oregano and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover and cook according to farro package directions, usually about 15 minutes. Taste after 15 minutes – the farro should be tender but still chewy. Remove the oregano sprigs and drain the farro.
In a large bowl, whisk together half the lemon juice, the orange juice, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Add the warm farro and toss to coat. Let cool. (May be refrigerated at this point.)
When the farro has cooled, add the remaining lemon juice, kale, cherries, cucumber and walnuts and toss to combine. Crumble in the goat cheese, toss gently just to mix, and serve.