Prep 15 mins Cook 30 mins Eat 30 mins
The Italian Farro Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives was a big hit at our Main Dish Salads cooking class. The farro is a healthy and nutty surprise amidst the sweetness of the Sugar Plum grape tomatoes, the sharp flavor from the feta cheese made of sheep’s milk and the earthiness of the Kalamata olives.
Wheat berries are one of the new ancient products to hit our shelves. They are delicious in salads, giving a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. They have names as simply wheat berries, farro (from Italy), kamut (from Egypt), freekeh (from Arabia) or spelt (from Germany). Each culture has its differences, depending on the land, climate and variety of the wheat berry. (See Kamut Berries with Asparagus, Peas and Roasted Lemon recipe for more about wheat berries.)
You can purchase wheat berries as whole grains or cracked. If they look like a small seed or grain of rice, they are whole grain, but if they look like broken pieces, they are cracked.The difference is important as the whole grains take longer to cook. You can soak them for a couple of hours for faster cooking or they can go straight into the pot with plenty of water and can be cooked like pasta and drained. I found this method the fastest. Most of the wheat berries cook in 30 minutes, but some may take up to 50 minutes. Try different varieties, depending on availability and your taste.
The other beautiful thing about farro is that it is very nutritious AND very filling. A little will go a long way in a salad with other ingredients, making you feel more satiated and good about the vitamins and fiber it contains. So when using farro or any wheat berry, add more veggies to balance out the dish. I used Arianna Trading Company’s greek olive oil* to dress this delicious salad.
Cut the grape tomatoes lengthwise. Use a lemon zester to make long pretty strips of the yellow rind. Basil from my garden is sliced into a chiffonade (Leaves rolled like a cigar and sliced finely across.)
I’ve used my new discovery of Tnuva sheep’s milk feta cheese from Israel again in this salad. (See Greek Salad with feta cheese recipe.) It crumbles easily, so handle it gently to have chunks of feta cheese throughout.
Or if you prefer the salad more creamy, stir the feta in with the farro, which will break up the chunks.
The Italian Farro Salad with grape tomatoes, feta cheese and Kalamata olives is perfect for a summer potluck or picnic. You can make this dish ahead, as the flavors will combine. The farro (or other wheat berries) will not get sticky like rice and it will stay fresh longer than pasta. It’s kind of a perfect grain. A whole grain. A wheat berry. An entire wheat kernel. Farro, where have you been all my life?
*Arianna Trading Company provided the olive oil for testing purposes.
Italian Farro Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Feta and Kalamata Olives
1 cup farro
3 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (not table salt)
4 ounces Feta cheese, cut into chunks
1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted & sliced
1 zest from one lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon-style mustard
3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade or chopped
1. Place farro and at least 2 quarts of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Cook for about 30 minutes until farro is al dente. Farro will be soft, but have a chewy texture. Once the farro is cooked, drain the farro and place in your salad bowl.
2. While the farro is cooking, prep the tomatoes, feta, olives, lemon zest and basil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with kosher salt to bring out their flavor.
3. Make the vinaigrette. In a salad dressing shaker or bowl, mix together the olive oil, vinegar and dijon mustard.
4. Mix together the farro, tomatoes, olives, lemon zest and 1/2 the basil with enough vinaigrette to coat. Garnish with feta chunks and remaining basil.
Servings: 4 357 calories per serving