It’s been a hot week! Temperatures in the upper 90s everyday. Just your typical hot and humid D.C. summer. Too hot for most of my favorite greens (broccoli, dandelion, bok choy, etc.); so long until fall. On the other hand, sun-worshipping, hot weather-loving vegetables are flourishing. Hence, the abundance of colorful tomatoes and peppers, summer corn, eggplant, and loads of zucchini at the local farmers’ markets. As for zucchini, can never quite figure out what to do with it beyond grilling or roasting in the oven, though I recently tried this recipe for chocolate zucchini bread (with a few minor tweaks) that turned out well.
But today, something on the lighter side sounds good…
Made this salad for a recent family get-together. It was a big hit. For whatever reason, people always seem to be intrigued by the humble salad. Doesn’t matter how much time I spend prepping the other dishes, it’s the salad that I nonchalantly whip together using whatever seasonal vegetables I have lying around and toss with a quick homemade dressing or, sometimes, just good old extra-virgin olive oil, that garners all the attention.
While this may not be your ordinary green salad, in the end, it’s still just a simple little salad; well, maybe just kicked up a notch.
First, the dressing — lime-cilantro. There’s a healthy amount of lime juice in the dressing, which adds a nice tanginess and acidity, and just a tiny bit of heat on the back of your palate from the chiles (serrano or jalapeno). Ditto for the red onions, which are marinated in lime juice and sea salt. Both pair nicely with the pan-roasted corn and fresh tomatoes. Summer in a bowl.
There’s also farro in the salad. What exactly is farro you ask?
While farro seems to be hip and trendy nowadays, it’s actually a very ancient grain.
True farro — also know as emmer wheat or triticum dicoccum — is an unhybridized Italian wheat-like plant (with two spikes). Thousands of years ago, farro was brought by the inhabitants of the Fertile Crescent, the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of wheat, to the region that is now Italy. However, farro is not wheat, but rather a grain all its own.
Farro has a complex nutty taste, with a chewy texture. It is easily digested and naturally low in gluten. Farro can be ground and simmered like corn to make polenta di farro (next on my list to try). It can take the place of rice in rice pilaf. It can also replace Arborio rice in risotto (farroto) such as this. As well, farro can be used in soups. Ground into a flour, it can be used in breads and pasta.
And one of the best things about farro, it only requires about 20 minutes of cooking time. Keep your eyes open for farro in the bulk aisle of your grocery store.
I just love how colorful this salad is — all natural, no added food colorings or dyes — just nature at its best…
For the pickled onions…
All you need are red onions, lots of lime juice, and a little sea salt. As the onions marinate, the lime juice turns the onions a magnificent shade of magenta.
Roasted Corn Farro Tomato Salad
serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 cups dried farro
3 to 4 fresh ears of corn
1 quart cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced in half
6 ounces or so pea shoots, baby arugula and/or purslane (or other seasonal baby greens)
Large handful of snap peas or English peas, stems removed, sliced in half
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pickled onions (recipe below)
Cilantro-lime dressing (recipe below)
Chopped pistachios for garnish
Cooking the farro: Soak the farro in cold water for 20 to 25 minutes, drain and place in a pot. Cover with 1 quart of water, bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 18 to 20 minutes, until chewy. Drain and set aside.
Pan roasting the corn: Using a serrated knife, cut the kernels from the ears of corn (over a wide bowl to prevent the kernels from scattering). Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the corn to the dry skillet and stir for 8 to 10 minutes until the kernels have browned a bit. Let cool.
Assembling the salad:
Place the farro in a large bowl, followed by the corn, tomatoes, peas shoots and/or baby arugula, snap or English peas. Toss with some dressing. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Top with pickled onions and chopped pistachios.
Note: Some grilled or pan-seared shrimp would be a nice addition. If you can’t find farro, you can substitute with wheat berries, rye berries, barley, etc. (soaking and cooking times will vary).
Quick Pickled Red Onions
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
Place the onion half, cut side down and thinly slice. Rinse the sliced onions (in a colander) with cold water (helps to remove its sharp bite). Drain well. Transfer the onions to a non-reactive bowl, pour the lime juice on top, and stir in the salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.
Slightly adapted from Rick Bayless
makes ~ 1 cup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1 to 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno, stemmed and roughly chopped
Sea salt to taste
Place on the ingredients in a blender jar. Blend until smooth.