Farro – so much more interesting and better for you than pasta or rice! This farro salad is a stellar combination: nutty farro, bursty tomatoes, spinach bits and smeary goats cheese or feta, doused in a garlic Sizzled Dressing with pops of coriander and cumin.
A Farro Salad worth making!
This is a farro salad that was already great before the Sizzly Dressing. The farro is cooked with vinegar instead of plain water (thanks for the tip New York Times Cooking! *See UPDATE*), making it delicious even before the add-ins. The roasted tomatoes are on the edge of bursting. And there’s smeary goats cheese, that tangy, creamy cheese that can make everything seem a little gourmet.
I could’ve just drizzled with a basic lemon dressing, and it would still be scoff-worthy.
But! That sizzling garlic-cumin-coriander dressing! Pops of toasted cumin and coriander with golden bits of garlic tossed through the farro just make for a stellar flavour and textural combination. 100% addictive. Simple but unique. Very Ottolenghi vibes.
I’m completely besotted. (With the salad. OK fine, maybe a bit with Ottolenghi too.)
*UPDATE: A reader pointed out that the NYT recipe uses apple cider (the drink) not apple cider vinegar! Even NYT readers have made that mistake like me – ha ha ha! Well, apple cider vinegar is what I use here and it works brilliantly to be the acid that is normally used in salad dressings. I’m actually glad you don’t have to go out to buy drinking cider to make this. :)*
Here’s a little look at the players in today’s recipe – a pot of vinegar cooked farro (it’s so good!) and bursty tomatoes….
…..and that sizzly dressing and smeary goats cheese…… (or Danish feta)
It’s a magical combination!
What you need for this Farro Salad
Here’s what you need to make this farro salad. First up, the secret ingredient: farro! (I know, I’m hilarious 😂).
Think of farro as a more nutritious, tastier alternative to white rice and pasta. Or – like quinoa, except it doesn’t get stuck in your teeth. It’s a whole grain that’s got a lovely nutty flavour, and a great meaty chew that makes it so satisfying to eat. Plus, it’s nutrient and fibre rich.
*Update: We’ve made this recipe using pearl barley too! Great alternative.*
Find it in whole food stores, fresh produce stores and delis. The packet pictured above is from Harris Farms (I’m in Sydney, Australia), $7 for 500g / 1 lb (we use 210g / 7oz).
Farro type – I use whole farro, the standard sold in Australia. Farro also comes pearled (outer layer removed) and semi-pearled (some removed), but these are not so common in Australia (to my knowledge). Whole farro has nothing removed, and is the chewiest, most flavourful and nutritious.
Substitute with pearl barley. Similar nutty flavour although it is slightly softer. Directions in recipe notes!
How to cook it – Boil in liquid like pasta! Whole farro takes 40 minutes. Pearled takes ~15 minutes, and semi-pearled ~30 minutes. Because pearling isn’t standardised, the exact times will differ. Just taste to check.
vinegar to cook the farro
As mentioned at the top of the post, the farro in this recipe is cooked in a combination of water and vinegar. A great cooking method I tried and love in this Farro Salad recipe from New York Times Cooking*. Using vinegar infuses with tangy flavour, making the farro tasty in its own right. Have a nibble and you’ll see!
*See UPDATE under photo at top of post about mistaken identify – drinking cider vs vinegar!*
Not that many! The magic in this recipe is all about the cooking method for the farro and the sizzling garlic-cumin-coriander dressing. 🙂
Grape or cherry tomatoes – Roasted for just 8 minutes at a relatively high temperature at the same time as the farro (handy!) so they become a little bit wrinkly but still holding together. Some burstage will happen when you toss them through the salad and this is encouraged as the juice forms part of the dressing.
Goats cheese or Danish feta – Smeary, tangy, creamy goodness, the perfect finishing touch.
Eschalot – Called “shallots” in the US, also known as French onions. They look like baby onions, but are finer and sweeter than regular onions so they kind of meld into the salad better. Substitute with finely sliced red onion.
Baby spinach – I like a bit of green leafage tossed through here and baby spinach is my choice. Rocket/arugula would also work nicely. Crispy greens like iceberg, cos/romaine probably won’t hold up as well as they tend to wilt more easily. But if that’s all I had, it wouldn’t stop me from making this!
The sizzling garlic-coriander-cumin dressing
Channeling my Ottolenghi within, inspired by this green bean salad of his, coriander and cumin seeds are sizzled with a good amount of garlic in olive oil and poured hot over the eschallots on top of the farro which makes them cook slightly.
There’s no vinegar in this dressing because the farro gets cooked in vinegar which is all the tang we need.
Coriander and cumin seeds – toasted whole in olive oil, they add the most incredible pops of flavour in this Farro Salad! They keep things interesting. 🙂
Garlic – Finely minced, sautéed until golden.
Olive oil – Use extra virgin for better flavour.
How to make Farro Salad with Sizzled Dressing
There’s a few components to this salad but they are low effort and low maintenance steps. And I wouldn’t ask you to do them if it wasn’t worth it!
Toasting / roasting
Toast farro & roast tomatoes at the same time. Spread the farro on a tray, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper then put them in the oven. They will both take 8 minutes in a 200°C/400°F (180°C fan). Yes, I know 8 minutes is an oddly precise time. But honestly, at 10 minutes, the farro is very well toasted and the tomatoes are very wrinkly. 8 minutes is perfect! 🙂
PS Toasting the farro gives it extra nutty flavour and gives it a lovely warm brown colour. I do this for quinoa too. Effortless, and so worth it!
Bursty tomatoes – Leave the tomatoes on the tray and let them cool while you get on with the recipe.
Pour the toasted farro into a medium saucepan.
Rapidly simer the toasted farro in water, vinegar and salt for 40 minutes. No need to stir.
Cooked farro – The exact cooking time of farro can vary depending on how old the farro is. Older = tougher = longer cooking time and more water. So just taste to check. Uncooked farro is rock hard. Cooked farro should have a good chew to it but not have a hard centre. Overcooked farro will be mushy and unpleasant. Let’s not go there.
If your farro is still too hard for your taste once the liquid is absorbed, just add more water and keep cooking. It’s very forgiving to cook. You could never do that with rice!
Drain off any excess liquid. For the farro I use, 3 cups liquid and 1 cup farro = nearly no liquid left.
Put the farro in a large bowl then pile the eschalots on top. Leave it to cool for 10 minutes or so, or you can let it fully cool. This salad is great served slightly warm or at room temp.
Sizzling dressing – Heat the oil in a small pan then toast the cumin and coriander for around 30 seconds or until it smells amazing. Then add the garlic and sauté that for another 30 seconds or so until light golden and – you guessed it – smells amazing!
Immediately pour the sizzling oil over the eschallots on the farro. The hot oil will partially cook the eschallots and make them wilt a bit.
PS You won’t need to worry about oil spitting and splattering. I really wanted a dramatic sizzle during this step but it’s not dramatic at all.
Toss the faro well to mix the dressing through.
Add spinach then toss briefly to mix through.
Gently transfer the tomatoes in. Handle with care – they are delicate and bursty, hence the name!
Then gently mix the tomatoes through. Some tomato burstage is encouraged – it forms part of the “dressing” – but we don’t want them all to turn into complete mush.
Now, it’s time to plate up!
For any salad with goats cheese or feta that goes smeary when tossed through salads, I prefer to assemble the salad by layering it. But that’s just me! You could just mix the goats cheese through if you prefer.
I’ve done three layers here. So – put one-third of the farro salad in a shallow bowl, top with one-third goats cheese. Repeat twice more. Finish with a swish of extra virgin olive oil if desired!
YUM. How good does that look!
If that photo doesn’t get you excited about trying this Farro Salad, do it for the Sizzled Dressing. Because if you haven’t tried a salad made with whole toasted coriander and/or cumin seeds before (like this one or this one), you are missing out! – Nagi x
PS This is an excellent salad for taking places, not only because it’s something different that will impress but also because it’s got excellent shelf life. No worries about wilting fragile leafy greens here! Make ahead and transportability notes are in the recipe card below.
Watch how to make it
Farro Salad with Sizzled Garlic Dressing
- 1 cup farro , dried, whole (Note 1)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (Note 2)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 400g/ 14oz (4 cups) grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- 1 eschallot , halved then finely sliced (sub 1/4 red onion) (Note 3)
- 2 tightly packed cups baby spinach , roughly chopped (sub arugula/baby rocket)
- 80g/ 3oz goats cheese or 120g/4 oz Danish feta (Note 4)
Sizzling garlic cumin dressing:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp garlic , finely minced (~4 cloves)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan).
- Roast tomatoes and toast farro – Toss tomatoes on a tray with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread farro on a separate tray. Put both in the oven, farro on the top shelf, tomatoes underneath. Bake for 8 minutes, shaking the trays halfway. The farro should be browned with a nutty flavour, the tomatoes should be a bit wrinkly but still holding their shape.
- Cool tomatoes on the tray while you prep everything else.
- Cook farro (Note 1) – Put the toasted farro in a saucepan with the vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to medium so it is simmering. Cover with lid then simmer for 40 – 45 minutes or until all/most of the liquid is absorbed and the farro is ready. It should still have a bite to it (not soft like pasta) but not a hard centre. Add more water if needed, and keep cooking – don't be afraid to cook it softer if you want. Drain off excess liquid, if there is any, then transfer to a large bowl. (Taste: a bit tangy, the "vinegar" component used in salad dressings!)
- Pile eschallots on top. Let farro cool to room temp.
- Sizzling garlic cumin dressing – Heat oil in a small pan over medium low heat. Add coriander and cumin, cook for 30 seconds until light golden and you can smell it. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until light golden.
- Assembling – Immediately pour hot oil over eschallots so it semi-cooks it. Toss. Add spinach, toss. Add tomatoes, gently stir through (some tomato collapsing is encouraged). Pour 1/3 into a serving bowl, crumble over 1/3 goats cheese. Repeat twice more, finishing with goats cheese. Eat!
Life of Dozer
Tea towel licking (ie smears of tasty food). Cute. But annoying. (She says, as she throws the tea towel into the dirty laundry and gets yet another clean one, and tries to scold him but everybody knows she thinks it’s adorable.)