A long, long time ago, on my first “grown-up” trip, I was at a tiny little restaurant in Florence, Italy, when a waiter asked me if I was a fan of “Farrah”. “Um, huh?” I asked, eloquent as always. “Farrah, you like?”. “She’s… ok, I guess”. I was very confused as to what a 70’s sex symbol had to do with Italian food but was too embarrassed to ask. The waiter, befuddled by my response, wandered away, I’m sure annoyed that he ended up with the table of weird Americans.
Later I noticed a special on the menu, “Farro con Pomodori Arrostiti” (Farro with roasted tomatoes). Aha! Farro, not Farrah! Farro, of course. Farro … I had no idea what farro was. I didn’t order it.
Now, many years later, farro is one of my favorite grains. It has great texture and cooks as easily as pasta (salty water, boiled for about 20 minutes). It’s a kind of wheat grain that has the bran intact (here’s a great guide to all kinds of grains). I had a big bunch of grapes in the fridge so, inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe, I got to work. I changed her recipe a bit, adding thyme and almonds. I also adjusted the temperature and cooking time, since I found the grapes were done quite a bit before the onions. Oven-roasted grapes may seem odd but they’re so, so good. And this is coming from someone who thinks raisins are Satan’s sun spots.
What’s cool about this salad is that it’s perfect for the end of summer but also for fall since grapes, onions and kale are pretty much always available. Matt liked it so much that he thinks it should be added to our thanksgiving line-up. High praise, indeed.
- 2 cups farro (semi-pearled)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups seedless red grapes (about 1 pound)
- 2 scallions finely chopped
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large red onions, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more for seasoning
- 4 cups mixed greens such as baby kale, baby Swiss chard, red mustard, and red mizuna
- ½ cup marcona almonds, roughly chopped
- 8 ounces fresh goat or feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the upper and lower thirds.
- In a medium saucepan, combine farro and 1 teaspoon salt; cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a bowl.
- Meanwhile, combine grapes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle of salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Place onion slices on a separate baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Flip slices and drizzle with another tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Put the onions on the bottom rack of oven and the grapes on the top rack.
- Roast grapes for about 35-40 min, until they burst and release some juice. Shake the tray once or twice during roasting. Roast onions for 30 minutes, then flip and add thyme sprigs. Roast another 20-30 minutes until soft and golden brown.
- When cool enough to handle, remove thyme sprigs and give the onions a rough chop. Transfer roasted grapes and onions to bowl with farro. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss well to combine and let cool, about 20 minutes.
- Immediately before serving, gently toss in greens, almonds and scallions. Season with additional salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar if needed. Transfer to a platter, top with goat or feta cheese, if using.
- When buying farro, choose semi-pearled over pearled, as it has more bran intact.
- If you don’t have red wine vinegar, use white wine or sherry vinegar. I wouldn’t use balsamic for this since it tends to be sweet and you’re looking for acid.
- Marcona almonds are a type of almond from Spain. I love them because they’re sweet, very crunchy and pre-roasted. You could use any kind of roasted nuts you like, of course.
- Any spicy salad greens would work (arugula, watercress, etc)