This one is for days when you trail the sleeve of your favourite, freshly-washed white sweater through a bowl of raw chicken marinating in BBQ sauce; for weeks when your laptop suddenly dies, quite unceremoniously, after six years of dutiful service; for that moment when you come home from work, cold, soaked and exhausted to find a mound of wet mail in your mail box because the flap stayed open on that one day of record-breaking snowfall.
Simply put, this recipe is for days when you have little to no patience, time, energy, or wherewithal to make something for dinner that surpasses boiling a pot of water, or turning the crank of the can opener. Because, frankly, there are days when the idea of cooking with love makes us sick to our stomach. Yes? Yes.
But you’re an able-bodied, responsible adult. So popcorn and a glass of wine for dinner – a third night in a row – feels heinously unjustifiable. You need something that won’t make you feel like the contents of a garbage bag come two hours; something that sustains you, but is enjoyable to eat. I’m here to share a preemptive coup de génie for moments like these (one I borrowed from this post on Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette). Earlier in the week, when you’ve got a little time on your hands, cook a batch of farro and store it in the fridge. (For the unacquainted: farro is a sturdy, nutty grain that can be eaten hot or cold, often used in recipes instead of barley or freekah or rice. I buy the Bob’s Red Mill because that’s what the Middle Eastern shop down the street stocks. But you can use any kind you like. (p.s before you have a heart-attack, that online price tag linked above – of $52.75 – is for a 25 lb bag).
Now that you’ve got a batch of pre-cooked farro hanging out in the fridge, all that’s left to do is shred some veg, make a quick dressing and open a can a chickpeas (because, let’s be real – it would’ve been nicer to soak and cook chickpeas from scratch, but it’s a weeknight).
This salad is my kitchen-sink salad – meaning I use whatever seasonal veg on I have on hand, and treat the farro, chickpeas, feta and the dressing as my anchors. In the spring and summer (when the photos below were taken), I might toss in some red endive, asparagus, or watercress. In the fall and winter, I might opt for carrots, beets, arugula or a bit of raw kale. It’s a game of mix-and-match. Use whatever’s in season and whatever you like best. The idea is to get some crunch and colour in there, and some veg that with pair up nicely with the spiky dressing and the creamy feta. This is a don’t-overthink-it salad; a work-week salad; a gift to you on the longest of days.
Farro Salad with Veg and Chickpeas (makes about 4 cups) – lightly adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from Orangette
- 1 cup farro
- ½ tsp. salt
For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 3 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 6-8 Tbsp. water, to taste
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
For the salad*:
- 1 cup chickpeas, either canned (drained and rinsed) or cooked from dried
- 1 red Belgian endive leaves (or radicchio, or escarole, or watercress, or arugula)
- 1 carrot, julienned or cut into strips (or beets)
- a few blanched asparagus, coarsely chopped (or green beans)
- 1/2 cup feta, coarsely crumbled (or soft goat’s cheese)
- handful of chopped parsley
In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with cold water and set it aside to soak for 30 minutes. Then drain the farro, put it back into the saucepan, and add 3 cups of cold water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until tender but still a little chewy (40-45 minutes). When it’s ready, drain it, and either use it while it’s warm or transfer it to a storage container for later use. (Cooked farro will keep for a few days in the fridge.)
To make the dressing, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, 1 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of the water, the garlic, and chile in a small bowl. Whisk well. Adjust the seasonings to taste. (Covered and chilled, the dressing will keep for 3-4 days.)
To assemble the salad, put the farro in a wide bowl (if the farro is cold, you might want to warm it a bit. Or you might choose to eat it cold, if that’s your jam.) Add the veg and parsley. Top with a generous amount of crumbled feta. Then drizzle over the dressing and toss to combine.
A note on mouth-breathing: if you’re having this salad at lunch at work, or before a date or at any time right before you’re about to mouth-breathe in the company of human being, do them a favour and have a breath mint or toothbrush at the ready. Armoured with all that raw garlic and fish sauce, this dressing is potent (albeit delicious) stuff.