Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta Dinner Is ServedWhile I love each and every recipe that I post, I must say that the ones I create entirely in my mind, with ingredients grown in my garden are my most favorite. When I can incorporate some personal pieces into the photos, even better! In this post,  the ceramic dishes in the photos are pieces my son made in class last year and the weathered wood is a picnic table my husband made years ago.

Featured in this recipe are tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and parsley..all from my garden which has had a pretty terrific late season surge in productivity.Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 2

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & FetaI have been making versions of this salad all summer long, but with the tomatoes and cucumbers in abundance, that seemed like a winning combination. Chickpeas add a nice texture a healthy dose of fiber:Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 6And yes there must always be cheese! With cucumbers and mint in the dish, that says “Greek” to me, so feta was the logical choice.

The one ingredient that may throw you a bit is the farro. Trader Joe's FarroThis very ancient grain has enjoyed a renaissance here in the U.S. thanks to the focus on whole grains. It’s deliciously nutty and has a nice bite to it.  While it may not have the same kind of name recognition as “quinoa,” it’s made its way to Trader Joe’s lineup which means fame and fortune are not far behind. Note that TJ’s farro is a “quick cook” variety (ready in just 15 minutes!)  Other brands and types of farro grains may take longer.

The final element of this dish is a very simple sherry vinaigrette dressing.  If you don’t have sherry vinegar on hand, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar are good substitutes.Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 3

As with most grain salads, this can be made ahead and held at room temperature (without the cheese) for up to two hours.  Just toss the cheese in before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days and make a wonderful lunch or side dish.  Finally, if you’re craving more protein than just the cheese, feel free to toss in some grilled chicken strips or shrimp or whatever you have on hand.

This one has Dinner Is Served’s name written all over it. Enjoy!

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta Dinner Is Served Cover

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta

  • 1 cup quick cooking faro
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1 cup diced fresh cucumber (peeled and seeded)
  • 1 cup drained chick peas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh mint
  • 2 TBS sherry vinegar
  • 6 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Cook farro according to package directions (for Trader Joe’s brand, simmer in 2 cups lightly salted water, covered, for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain excess water).

After farro has cooked, place on a sheet pan or in a large bowl to cool down to room temperature.  While farro is cooling, make sherry vinaigrette by whisking sherry vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the farro with the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, chick peas, fresh herbs and feta cheese (if serving right away). Toss gently.  Drizzle just enough of the dressing to flavor the salad but not drown it.  Add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Yields: About 3 people as a meatless main, 4-5 as a side dish

Cilantro Lovers Mexican Rice

Cilantro is an herb people tend to either love or hate.  Guessing you can tell which category I fall into ♥

If you fall into the love category as well, then this rice needs to make an appearance at your table very soon.  It’s seriously addicting and be forewarned, it will steal the show.  A few months ago, a fellow food blogger hosted a rib showdown and served this rice as a side dish.  Showdown results:  “The BEST Barbecue Baby Back Ribs Showdown won by a Cilantro Rice Dish.”   I must say, her rib recipe was delish.

But this rice is better.

A few notes about the recipe before you dive in.  Yes it has serrano chiles in it.  No, it is NOT spicy!  If you’re not convinced, dial it down by going with a more mild chile.  Also, you may substitute long-grain rice in place of the medium grain (which can sometimes be challenging to locate).  I just find that the medium grain rice gives this more of a risotto-like texture.  Leftover dressing can be refrigerated and is superb tossed with grilled veggies, shrimp or use as a marinade.

One final reason to make this rice: it can be served warm or at room temperature!  Any cilantro-loving tailgaters out there?  This rice is for you!  Make ahead and bring along.   I would also advise bringing along extra copies of the recipe as well.

Spread the word!  Share the ♥

CILANTRO LOVERS MEXICAN RICE

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced seeded serrano chiles
  • 2 cups medium-grain white rice
  • 3 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Cilantro Dressing:

  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced seeded serrano chile

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in processor. Blend until almost smooth. Season dressing with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature; rewhisk before using.)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and serrano; sauté until onion is translucent, about 9 minutes. Mix in rice; stir 2 minutes. Mix in broth and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until rice is just tender and broth is absorbed, about 15 -20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Transfer rice to bowl; cool to barely lukewarm, stirring occasionally, about 20-30 minutes.   Add 1/2 cup Cilantro Dressing.  Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Arugula

Twitter-version>   This salad is delicious.  Everyone should make it.  The end.

Blogger version> It’s all about my comfort zone.

More specifically, going outside my comfort zone.  I used to do that back in the day.   Armed with my just-arrived copies of Bon Appetit and Gourmet, I ventured into ethnic neighborhoods in search of ingredients from far away lands.   I stuffed squab, cleaned squid, shucked oysters and spent an entire weekend making cassoulet.  A foodie on a mission to conquer the great unknowns of the culinary world.  The suburban, female equivalent of Anthony Bourdain.

But time marches on and things change.

I am blessed with children.  I work, volunteer and keep an eagle eye on the household budget.  The food ventures become few and far between.  I suppose it’s inevitable as we age, we tend to go out on a limb less.  Comfort equals the familiar.  The familiar is safe.

A few months ago I was flipping through the pages of Food & Wine.  Flipping, meaning I had no intention of making any of the recipes, even though they all looked delicious.  Back in the day perhaps, but that’s not me anymore, I told myself.    That’s when my inner foodie swooped down, slapped me upside the head and shouted, “wake up sister and get back out on that limb!”   That inner foodie’s a feisty one, she is.

To make a long story even longer, I did decide to make some recipes from that issue of F&W, only I let my Facebook fans randomly select a page, and I promised to make whatever recipe appeared on that page.   These randomly selected recipes have since led me to ingredients like elderflower liqueur and red curry and tamarind soda.  Unfamiliarity, as it turns out, can be a most flavorful thing.

Which brings me to this recipe, recently selected at random by a Facebook fan, Cheryl B.  I must thank her because it’s everything I love in a dish: fresh and lively, colorful and quick.   Bonus: serve with poached or grilled shrimp, drizzled with a little of the leftover dressing.

It’s not every night, but once a week or so I now take a walk out on that limb.  Must keep that inner foodie satisfied, you know.

And the salad?  It really is delicious.  Everyone should make it!  The end.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Arugula*

2 6.3 ounce boxes Israeli-style couscous (about 2 1/2 cups)

4 TBS olive oil

4 cups boiling water

1/2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel

3 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 medium shallot, minced

1 TBS chopped fresh basil

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

3 medium plum tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped

3 cups baby arugula

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pine nuts

  1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 TBS of the olive oil.  Add the couscous and stir over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until golden brown.   Carefully add the boiling water and return mixture to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, about 12 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Fluff the couscous lightly with a fork.  Spread onto a shallow baking pan and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the remaining 3 TBS olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, shallot, basil, honey, salt and pepper in a jar.  Cover and shake well.  Set aside. (dressing can be made one day in advance.  Refrigerate and then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using)
  3. In a bowl, combine the cooled couscous, tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella and walnuts.  Toss with just enough dressing to coat.  Check for seasonings and if necessary, add some additional salt and a few turns of black pepper.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Serves 6

* You may substitute the equivalent amount of cooked orzo or any other very small pasta for the couscous.

Bulgur Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Feta and Plum Tomatoes

It’s time I give a shout out to my vegetarian fans with this superbly flavorful and healthy salad.  And with temps around these parts forecasted to climb in time for the 4th. of July weekend, this is a perfect salad to add to any backyard celebration.  For those of you who have yet to explore the wonderful world of whole grains, I highly recommend giving bulgur a try: high in fiber & protein and low in fat and calories.   If you can’t find it in your local supermarket, you may substitute quinoa, traditional couscous or Israeli couscous.  Recipe bonus: keeps well in the fridge days.  Happy and healthy eating!

Bulgur Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Feta and Plum Tomatoes

2 cups water

1 cup bulgur (See Note>)

1 teaspoon salt

Coarsely ground black pepper

1 15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained

1 cup diced plum tomatoes

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Bring 2 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add bulgur and salt and stir to blend. Cover and let stand until bulgur is just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well, pressing to extract excess water. Transfer bulgur to large bowl; cool. Mix in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4 (as a main course) or 6 (as a side course)

Note> Bulgur is sometimes referred to as “cracked wheat” and is usually available at health food markets and specialty stores.  Other grains that may be substituted in this recipe include couscous, quinoa or Israeli couscous.