This spring salad is picnic fare at its finest—rustic yet refined, scrumptious yet simple. If you haven’t yet tasted farro, you’ll definitely want to give this a try. Farro is an ancient Italian whole grain with an irresistible nutty and slightly sweet flavor. Bianco Sardo is a hard sheep’s milk cheese from Puglia that is salty and a tad floral—if you can’t find it, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano will make a good substitute. Enjoy this salad on its own or as a side dish with poultry or fish. It’s best savored outside on a warm spring day, preferably with a chilled glass of Italian Pinot Bianco close at hand.
- 2 cups farro
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), tough ends cut off
- 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 medium yellow beets (about 1 pound without greens), roasted, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice*
1 cup freshly grated Bianco Sardo cheese (about 1 ounce)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (1 1/2 - 2 lemons)
- 1 plump garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a large bowl, cover the farro with cold water and soak for 25 minutes. Drain, then place in a medium pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes, skimming any foam from the surface. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes, or until vibrant green and crisp tender. Transfer to the ice bath. Once cool, remove (reserving the water) and pat dry. Add the onions to the ice water and soak for 10 minutes.
- Slice the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces and fold them into the farro, along with the red onions, beets and cheese.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil while whisking. Pour the dressing over the farro salad and toss well. Preferably, let the salad sit covered at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours to let the flavors meld. Do Ahead: The farro, beets, asparagus and dressing can be prepared the day before and stored separately (covered) in the refrigerator.
*To roast beets, place the cleaned beets (green stems removed) in a small oven-safe dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast in a 400˚ F oven for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Cool, then peel.