Monday, March 25, 2019

Farro Salad with Castelvetrano Olives, Walnuts and Lemon

Lately, I’ve been on a farro kick. Had you asked me fifteen years ago for a farro recipe, I would have looked at you cross-eyed. Even though I was raised in one of the hippy-est of Pacific Northwest cities, I somehow grew up a farro virgin. I’ve always been a bit embarrassed to read the word aloud when I see it on the menu, for fear of mispronouncing it and looking like an idiot. But honestly, it wouldn’t be the first time. I’m not exactly known for saying words correctly. 

One summer, when my husband and I were just dating, we decided to dine out at an upscale French restaurant in downtown Seattle. They had a narrow outdoor patio, barely wide enough to fit a two-person table. The waiter, when taking our order, had to nearly sit on the railing that bordered the patio, to keep from hovering directly over us. But it was outdoors! In Seattle! With a happy hour! It’s the little things like eating outside that excite us northerners who are so accustomed to being bound to the indoors due to rain.

We perused the happy hour menus our waiter had handed to us and were ready to make our selections when he returned. 

“We are going to share a few things,” I told him, always feeling better about announcing our budget-friendly approach to eating out beforehand. “We will start with an order of the Haricots Verts en Salade and then the Pommes Frites and Petit Lamb Burger please.” 

My pronunciation of the starter, rolled off the tongue like a man without rhythm, gyrating awkwardly on the dance floor. I’d leaned heavy into the “T”s, just the way I felt it read: “Hair-Eh-Cot Vurts.” I didn’t know what it was exactly, but since it was paired with the word “salade,” I felt it safe to assume it would be a salad of some sort. Being the nutrition student that I was at the time, I was keen on making sure I ate my greens, even when dining out. 

Our waiter nodded in understanding, retrieved our menus and turned toward the kitchen to enter our order into the computer. It didn’t take long before he returned to the patio, carrying a white rectangle plate, heaped full with skinny green beans.

“The Haricot Verts en Salade, Madam,” he announced, as he presented the dish before me.

I wrinkled my brow in confusion, quite aware that the name he’d rattled off did NOT match the starter we had asked for. He’d said it so fast, I’m pretty sure he had called it “Air-Eh-Co Vairs” and what I ordered definitely started with H and ended with a hard “T-S.” Plus, this dish was green beans, not a salad. French was definitely not my second or third or fourth language, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was no dummy. Certainly this was a mistake. 

“Umm,” I started. “We actually ordered the Haricot Verts.” It came out awkward and sharp, "Hair-Eh-Cot Vurts."

He looked at me, straight-faced and confirmed, “Yes, Madam. The haricot verts." 

This time I was certain. He was definitely saying "Air-Eh-Co Vairs.” I squinted back at him, unsure how I would make my point any clearer. He obviously wasn’t getting it. 

“We wanted the salad one, please.”

“Yes yes!” he exclaimed, his accent thick. “This dish is the Haricots Verts en Salade.” He swept his hand in front of him, and bobbed his head in a shallow bow as he backed his way indoors toward the kitchen. 

I looked across the table at Graham and shrugged,picking up my fork in resolve. He didn’t even like green beans. I speared one of them roughly, hearing skin break beneath the tines. I took a bite and my face warmed as tasted the briney flavors of vinegar and mustard. The beans were perfectly crisp-tender. 

“These are delicious!” I exclaimed, forcing Graham to try them too. 

He obliged and then grinned in surprise. Together, we inhaled the entire heap, the whole time thinking how grateful we were for this happy little accident. Here we thought we were being so accommodating to eat the dish they had served us in error. It wasn’t until the waiter returned with menus for a last call that it dawned on me what had happened.

“Ha!” I cried out, as I read the text in front of me. I needed the visual to pair with the waiter’s pronunciation. “Haricot Verts!” I yelled. This time, I said it the way he had, with a silent “H” and silent “T’s” and as smooth as poetry. “This was the dish we ordered!!”

We burst out laughing simultaneously and I have never lived this moment down. Needless to say, I’m a bit scarred and I experience a moment of pause now, whenever I encounter an ingredient on a menu that I don’t know how to pronounce. Like, for instance, farro, to bring this story full circle. But a fresh and recent Google search reveals that there really is no going wrong when it comes to it’s pronounciation. Whether you say “fair-oh” or “far-oh,” it seems to make no difference. Both are right, depending on who you ask. So my advice is to just say it with confidence (personally, I’m a fan of calling it “far-oh” but to each their own!)

Now that we got that out of the way...let’s continue. For those still feeling in the dark, farro is an ancient whole grain that is high in fiber as well as being a good source of iron. It is derived from wheat (which means it is not gluten free) and looks a lot like a grain of oatmeal. It absorbs whatever sauces it cooked in or mixed with, making it a great vehicle for all sorts of flavors. 

My favorite way to eat it is tossed with dressing or other goodies as a hearty and filling lunch salad, which is what I will share with you today. Trader Joe’s sells a 10 minute pre-cooked farro that I like to use to speed up this recipe. It makes great leftovers. Make it on Monday and eat it all week!

Farro Salad with Castelvetrano Olives, Walnuts and Lemon

3 cups cooked farro (I like to cook mine in chicken broth for added flavor)
1 tsp lemon zest
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
2 cups pitted Castelvetrano Olives, chopped
¼ cup raisins
2 green onions, thinly sliced (top parts only)
⅓ cup fresh chopped chives
Shaved Parmesan, to taste

In a medium-sized serving bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, honey, olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt. Add farro, toasted walnuts, olives, raisins, green onions and chives and toss well to mix with dressing. Top with a generous amount of shaved Parmesan and serve. 

Serves 6

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posted by kelsie