This is the final entry in my week-long series of summer salads. It’s a Farro & Tomato Salad with Basil & Anchovies and it comes (practically word for word) from Judy Rodgers.
I tend to be a tinkerer when it comes to recipes (if I follow one at all) but there are some cooks whose style and choices just click with me and the way I like to do things. Judy Rodgers is one such cook. She thinks about food and it’s preparation. She gets all wonky about technique. So I know that every step and every ingredient really is all it needs to be. No more no less. I can’t improve on that kind of methodology, so I don’t even try.
Especially when it comes to an ingredient like farro. It’s an ancient grain. But it’s new to my kitchen. It’s been a staple to the masses since Roman times, but suddenly the chic set has embraced it too. I first had it at one of Mario Batali’s New York restaurants in the 1990s (in the form of a pan-fried cake) but this is my first attempt at cooking with it at home.
If you are unfamiliar with farro, well it looks a bit like brown rice. But it’s a closer cousin to barley. The best version is the whole-grain version, partly due to all those healthful advantages. When you buy farro look for whole-grains that have been partially processed and have the brown outer hull removed. These are called “pearled”, “perlato”, “semiperlato”, or “decorticato”.
It’s not a difficult grain to prepare if you go for the pearled variety– which cooks up pretty quickly without pre-soaking. But don’t overcook it. It should not be soft or mushy. It’s best when it has a tender but chewy texture. Too much cooking and you lose some of the nutty taste that is the very best aspect of farro in my opinion.
In this recipe, the nutty flavor is highlighted with brightly acidic tomatoes, which are augmented with a little vinegar and a few anchovies. Judy recommends that you be “judicious with the vinegar”. Too much of the stuff and the delicate nutty flavor of farro gets lost. For that same reason, don’t dress the salad before serving. If the grains soak up too much vinegar, again the nutty nature will be compromised.
I am serving mine as part of a summer antipasto plate with radishes, green onions, olives and Mediterranean Deviled Eggs from Shockingly Delicious.
- 1 c whole-grain farro
- 3 c water
- 1 pinch salt, plus more as needed
- 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 t sherry vinegar
- 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1 c halved ripe sweet 100 cherry tomatoes (about 24 tomatoes)
- 4 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and cut lengthwise into 3 or 4 strips each
- 1 small cucumber, sliced
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves
Combine the farro with the water and salt in a 2‑quart saucepan and cook uncovered at a bare simmer until just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. You should get about 2 cups. Drain and spread on a sheet pan so it will cool evenly.
Whisk together the oil, vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste. The vinegar flavor should be barely strong enough to detect.
Combine the farro, tomatoes, anchovies, and cucumbers, and toss with just enough vinaigrette to coat. Tear The basil leaves, then fold into the farro. Taste again. Serve promptly, while the flavors are bright and clear and before the farro soaks up the vinegar.