This dish is great as a side for grilled meats, but we’ve also had it as a main dish for dinner or lunch on meat free days, or when we just want a light meal. For those of you who have not yet tried farro: Farro is an ancient grain that is a healthier alternative to rice or other refined grains or pasta. It has a slightly chewy texture that I love, and the flavor is a little nutty. The pearled variety (which is most commonly found) is easy to cook – much like dropping pasta in a pot of hot water – none of the preciseness of quinoa and other grains. In the grocery store, I usually find it near the rice, lentils and beans – but it is also readily available online. Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite brand, but that may be easier to find on the west coast than the east.
Serves 4-6 as a side, 3-4 as a main dish
- 1 cup pearled farro
- 2 medium zucchini, yellow squash (or a mix)
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 small/medium red onion, thickly sliced
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced, optional
- ¼ cup red wine, chardonnay, or champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Dried Oregano (or Za’atar would be great instead)
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
Wash and dry the zucchini/squash and tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes in half and place in a large bowl. Lightly season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Cut off the ends of the zucchini/squash and slice lengthwise into half or quarters, depending on the thickness of the fruit. Brush the slices of onion and all sides of the zucchini/squash with oil, do not season with salt yet. (Salt draws moisture to the surface and prevents browning.) Grill the zucchini/squash on a grill pan or grill on medium high, a minute or two per side until each side has grill marks. (Be careful not to overcook the zucchini- it will get mushy quickly. Better to have grill marks on 2-3 sides and pull it, rather than marks on all sides and mushy zucchini.) Grill the onion slices until tender. When done, remove to a cutting board, season with a little kosher salt and pepper, and chop: zucchini/squash into 1” pieces, onion into ½” pieces. Move to the bowl with the tomatoes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium sized (4 qt) pot of water to a boil over high heat. When boiling, salt the water as you would for pasta, then add the farro and stir. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium high and cook until just tender / al dente, about 15 minutes, or to package instructions. (If you are using semipearled farro, it will take a little longer.) Drain and add to the bowl with the vegetables.
While the farro and veggies cook, make the dressing. Add the minced shallot and garlic, if using, to a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Cover with the vinegar and allow to sit while you get the rest of the meal ready. The vinegar will mellow the shallot and garlic. Then, add the mustard, oregano, and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk to combine, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk, until creamy, thickened and emulsified.
Pour the dressing over the grains and veggies, then toss to evenly coat. The farro will soak up dressing as it sits, so it’s okay if it’s a little wet at first. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. This is good at room temperature or cold, so feel free to make a couple hours in advance – just don’t wait too long or you’ll have soggy veggies.