Seriously Simple: Celebrate the Fourth of July with this fresh salad
Grain salads are always a good solution to cooking on hot summer days, since you can cook the grain in the early morning, leaving your kitchen cool for the rest of the day. I like experimenting with different rice and wheat varieties as the foundation for cooling summer salads, and I particularly like the toothsome, nutty quality of farro.
Farro is an ancient strain of wheat that looks like plump barley kernels. You can find farro in health food stores, online and now in many supermarkets. I prefer Bob’s Red Mill organic farro.
Make sure to select whole grain farro; pearlized farro has the hull removed and cooks in half the time. Some are quick-cooking, while this untreated whole wheat farro takes longer to cook. It’s best to check the package for specific cooking instructions. If you can’t use wheat because it has gluten, this salad is every bit as good made with rice.
This Fourth of July, why not serve this farro salad studded with crunchy Persian cucumber dice and sweet juicy pitted and halved cherries? It has been a crowd-pleaser each time I serve it to my guests, with or without goat cheese. And while it takes some time to pit the cherries, it’s easy to do, especially if you have a cherry pitter.
An abundance of fresh chopped herbs adds plenty of herbal flavor, while the pomegranate molasses and sumac dressing add a sweet and sour flavor to the salad ingredients. Make sure to add just enough dressing to adequately dress the grain and veggies; any remaining will be great on other salads. The goat cheese is optional. This can be served as a main course along with a chilled soup or as a side to myriad entrees. It makes a splendid side accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.
Farro, Cucumber and Fresh Cherry Salad
- 2 cups whole wheat farro
- 8 cups water or more to cover
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 3 cups finely diced Persian cucumber (about 4 cucumbers)
- 3 cups pitted and halved fresh cherries
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill weed
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/2-pound goat or feta cheese, crumbled, optional
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon grainy mustard
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac or to taste
- 3/4 cup avocado or grapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herb leaves
1. Rinse and drain farro in a fine-mesh colander set in a sink. Transfer the farro into a large saucepan, cover with water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered until tender, about 22 to 28 minutes. The farro should have a little bite to it. Drain again in the colander, and place in a large serving bowl. Cool to room temperature.
2. Add the red onion, cucumbers and cherries. Mix with a two-pronged fork, adding the parsley, chives, mint, dill and pine nuts.
3. To make the dressing, combine the molasses, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and sumac in a medium bowl, and whisk until incorporated. Add the oil and whisk until well-blended. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
4. Pour enough of the dressing over the farro to coat it and mix with a fork to fluff the farro. Carefully add the goat or feta cheese, if including. Taste for seasoning and garnish with fresh herbs. Chill for at least 3 hours. Just before serving, check to see if you need more dressing. Taste for seasoning. Serve chilled and garnish just before serving.
Advance preparation: This dish can be prepared four hours ahead, covered and refrigerated until serving.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)