Cooking from the Past: Farro Salad with Peas, Fava Beans, Arugula, and Grape Tomatoes

farro-002a.jpgI save a lot of stuff. Old maps, movie tickets, postcards from friends, they hide out in my apartment, awaiting rediscovery. Of course I also collect recipes. Every once in a while I flip through my Han Solo binder, stuffed with computer printouts and torn magazine pages, and pull out a recipe I’ve made in the past but have since forgotten.

(OK, I used to be a Star Wars geek, but ONLY because of the original three movies, NOT the new ones. Just clarifying.)

So on Sunday I brought out a special Tuscany issue of Bon Appétit from 2000, and turned to a recipe for a farro salad that I made way back then. Farro, also known as emmer, is often referred to as an “ancient” grain, as it was used by the Etruscans before the diffusion of wheat. I hadn’t enjoyed the dish very much the first time around, but now, after a few years of distance and an increased interest in whole grains, I was ready to try it again. 

After purchasing a bag of farro perlato at the Italian specialty store around the corner, I started by soaking the grains in cold water for 20 minutes. I am not sure what effect this has, but Jamie Oliver says to do it, and that’s good enough for me. After draining the farro, I cooked it in boiling water while I prepared my vegetables: grape tomatoes, raw peas, slightly cooked fava beans, and arugula. At the last minute I decided to sauté some garlic and throw it into the mix. I also dressed the salad with a lemon and olive oil dressing instead of using the suggested red wine vinegar.

The final result (besides being way too much food for two people) was a nutty and light combination of ingredients. The sweet grape tomatoes and crunchy raw peas popped with spring flavors, while the fava beans added a smooth accent to the inherent chewiness of the grain. The arugula held its own and fulfilled its peppery promise. Also, the lemony dressing, mixing with the sautéed garlic and some basil, infused the salad with subtle accents of citrus freshness.

Jim and I tried to make a dent in the mountain of farro I had produced. We didn’t get very far. Even though I’ll be eating this salad for lunch all week, farro will indeed make another appearance at our table. And it won’t take another seven years to do so.

Recipe for Farro Salad with Peas, Fava Beans, Arugula, and Grape Tomatoes (Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, May 2000)

  • 2 cups of farro
  • 1 cup of shelled fava beans
  • 3/4 cup of fresh peas
  • 12-15 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of arugula, leaves separated from stems, washed
  • 5 leaves of fresh basil, chopped 
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Start by soaking the farro in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes; drain. Place the grains in a pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered. While the farro cooks, quickly cook the fava beans in boiling water for about 3 minutes; drain and set aside. Sauté the garlic in a splash of olive oil, until it just starts to brown. Set aside.

When the farro has finished cooking, drain it well and place in a serving dish. Let the farro cool for about 15 minutes, stirring periodically, before adding the favas, peas, and garlic. Mix well. Prepare your dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, and a dash of salt and pepper. When you are ready to serve the salad, add the tomatoes, fresh basil, arugula, and dressing. Season again with freshly-ground black pepper. Mix well. Enjoy! Serves 4 as a side dish with possible leftovers for lunch!


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Cheryl said,

    Hey! Excellent recent entries! Your blog is getting better and better! 🙂

    I always love to learn about new ingredients that I’ve never used or eaten before. I’m especially interested in farro. Is it easy to find? Where can I get it?


  2. 2

    artichokeheart said,

    Hi Cheryl!

    Thanks for the positive feedback!

    In answer to your question, I’ve found farro in Italian specialty stores (like BuonItalia at the Chelsea Market), and I think I have also seen it in health food stores. Wheatberries are very similar, but I have read they take longer to cook.

    Thanks for reading!

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