Farro and Crunchy Thangs Salad with Herby Feta Dressing

SERVES: 4

I often find grain salads to be heavy on the gut and therefore prefer a ratio of grains to other things that favors the other things. In this case, we’re talking crunchy spring vegetables. This recipe is meant to be messed with. Use whatever snappy spring veg you can find, swap out the pistachios for almonds for whatever nuts you have on hand, use greek yogurt in the dressing if you can’t find buttermilk, and choose your own herbs.

Active Time: 20 Mins

Total Time: 45 mins

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Produce

  • 2 packed cups mixed tender herbs (such as basil, cilantro, mint, dill, parsley, tarragon)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 pound mixed crunchy vegetables (such as snap peas, cucumbers, radishes, fennel, carrots)
  • 3 scallions

Pantry

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ⅔ cup roasted, salted pistachios or almonds

Dairy

  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

1. Cook the farro:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

     

  • Stir in the farro and cook for 20-30 minutes, until tender. This will vary greatly depending on what kind of farro you have so just keep tasting. If you have unpearled farro the cook time will be longer. In the meantime, skip down to step two and make the dressing.

     

  • Drain the farro through a colander and rinse with cold water until cool

2. Make the herby feta dressing:

  • In a blender, combine 2 packed cups of tender herbs (any mix will do), 1 garlic clove, 1 jalapeno (seeds and all unless you’re spice averse), 3 tablespoons olive oil, 4 ounces feta cheese, the zest of half of a lemon, the juice of 2 whole lemons, and ¾ cup of buttermilk.
  • Blend until smooth and pale green.
  • Season the dressing with salt and transfer to a medium bowl.

3. Prep some veg and combine:

  • Thinly slice 1 pound of crunchy vegetables of your liking (I like to use a mix of many)

     

  • Coarsely chop ⅔ cup roasted salted almonds or pistachios.

     

  • Thinly slice 3 scallions, discarding the hairy ends.

     

  • Combine all of the chopped veg, the cooled farro, scallions, and chopped nuts in a large bowl.
  • Pour half of the herby feta dressing over and stir well to combine, adding more as needed until thoroughly dressed but not swimming in dressing. Reserve the remaining dressing for another use.
  • Season the salad with salt--it will likely take quite a bit of it, you’ve got a lot of veg to season in there.
  • Serve room temperature or chilled.

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When I first set out to develop this week’s recipe for a Farro and Crunchy Thangs Salad, I had feta on the brain. I dreamt up a tangy, thick, creamy dressing that would soak into the farro as it sat, and nap all of the crunchy bits. The dressing would be packed with tender herbs for freshness, jalapeños for kick, and get its body and sass from a creamy combination of blended buttermilk and feta . It was to be a green goddess of sorts, but like, an extra special, turnnnnnt up green goddy. So, I hit the kitchen. I made the dressing and tossed it with a bowl full of chewy farro, crunchy spring vegetables and chopped pistachios. I took one bite, and the voices in my head piped up. “Feta is lame. Lose the feta.” 

Here’s the thing: I have a complicated relationship with feta. For the last 32 years of my life I’ve been a closeted feta lover. I was somehow convinced that feta—especially of the cow’s milk variety—is an inferior, undesirable, un-cool cheese. I suspect that this negative association may have something to do with feta’s frequent and unfortunate appearance in uninspired Mesclun mix salads, tossed with dried cranberries and slivered almonds. All I know is, the bad rap runs deep. So deep, that in all of the years I worked at Bon Appetit, not once did I come clean to my colleagues about my true feelings for feta for fear of being laughed out of the kitchen. I played it cool, and kept my thoughts to myself. 

But, I digress. The feta-shaming voices in my head were loud, and so, in a moment of panic I killed the feta and pivoted in a new direction. This time: tahini. Tahini would replace the feta, both ingredients are fatty and rich, so they’d serve a similar purpose in overall composition of the dressing. Tahini is cool, people love tahini, bingo, bango, bongo. I twisted up the new dressing, tossed it all together and took one bite. It was...fine? Kinda good? Certainly not the best dressing I’ve ever made, but not particularly offensive either.

Conflicted, I put it to the fam. They tasted both versions and the verdict was clear: feta makes it betta. Of course it does. Feta is a GOOD CHEESE. I freakin’ love feta! Why have I spent my entire life ashamed to say it? I don’t care if it’s not “cool,” I don’t care if it hasn’t seen a day in a musty ass cheese cave, and doesn’t cost $20/lb, I. LOVE. FETA. And I resent whoever put the idea in my head that feta is anything but cool, way back when, because I’ve spent years of my career pretending not to like it. And on that note, how can a GD cheese be un-cool anyway?!?! Feta is the dopest and that’s the bottom line. 

Do I sound crazy right now? Cause I feel like I kinda do. (I call it passion, but potayto potahto.) Crazy or not, I am pleased to present you with this week’s recipe for Farro and Crunchy Thangs Salad with Herby Feta Dressing. It’s a 50/50 grain salad which is to say, it’s fifty percent grains, and fifty percent other things, because that’s my favorite way to eat them. In this case, the other things are nuts and crunchy vegetables -- it’s springtime at last, which means crunchy spring vegetables abound. The dressing was a journey, but it’s not one that I regret. I have a new lease on feta and nothing could be more liberating than that.

Farro and Crunchy Thangs Salad with Herby Feta Dressing

Serves 4

I often find grain salads to be heavy on the gut and therefore prefer a ratio of grains to other things that favors the other things. In this case, we’re talking crunchy spring vegetables. This recipe is meant to be messed with. Use whatever snappy spring veg you can find, swap out the pistachios for almonds for whatever nuts you have on hand, use greek yogurt in the dressing if you can’t find buttermilk, and choose your own herbs.

PRODUCE

  • 2 packed cups mixed tender herbs (such as basil, cilantro, mint, dill, parsley, tarragon)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 pound mixed crunchy vegetables (such as snap peas, cucumbers, radishes, fennel, carrots)
  • 3 scallions

PANTRY

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ⅔ cup roasted, salted pistachios or almonds

DAIRY

  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

1. Cook the farro:

○ Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

○ Stir in the farro and cook for 20-30 minutes, until tender. This will vary greatly depending on what kind of farro you have so just keep tasting. If you have unpearled farro the cook time will be longer. In the meantime, skip down to step two and make the dressing.

○ Drain the farro through a colander and rinse with cold water until cool.

2. Make the herby feta dressing:

○ In a blender, combine 2 packed cups of tender herbs (any mix will do), 1 garlic clove, 1 jalapeno (seeds and all unless you’re spice averse), 3 tablespoons olive oil, 4 ounces feta cheese, the zest of half of a lemon, the juice of 2 whole lemons, and ¾ cup of buttermilk. Blend until smooth and pale green. Season the dressing with salt and transfer to a medium bowl.

3. Prep some veg and combine:

○ Thinly slice 1 pound of crunchy vegetables of your liking (I like to use a mix of many)

○ Coarsely chop ⅔ cup roasted salted almonds or pistachios.

○ Thinly slice 3 scallions, discarding the hairy ends.

○ Combine all of the chopped veg, the cooled farro, scallions, and chopped nuts in a large bowl. Pour half of the herby feta dressing over and stir well to combine, adding more as needed until thoroughly dressed but not swimming in dressing. Reserve the remaining dressing for another use. Season the salad with salt--it will likely take quite a bit of it, you’ve got a lot of veg to season in there. Serve room temperature or chilled.