My mother is in the midst of renovating an old house, so I was pretty busy when I was home and didn’t bring my computer with me to distract me from the task at hand. The house needed to be completely gutted and redone because there were plumbing issues, a leaky roof, cracked plaster, and non-existent insulation. She opted for a beautiful metal roof, which is almost finished, but the interior of the home is still stripped down to the studs. Luckily the original moldings and hardwood floors are still in place, but there’s little else intact. I’m not entirely sure how (or if) I’ll do it, but I might end up sharing the progress with you, because I’m a crazy person and I love home renovations and big old houses. While I was home we were driving all over the world choosing flooring and finishes for the upstairs bathroom. I’m sure you’re fascinated. I hope you’re fascinated.
Anyways, like I said, I had a cold just before I left. I’m a total whiney little baby when I’m sick, and I also tend to get ravenously hungry. I made this salad when I was feeling well enough to spend some time in the kitchen, because I was looking for something healthy and filling, and packed with flavor since I couldn’t taste much. It really didn’t disappoint.
Russell has been completely obsessed with farro lately, and it’s starting to rub off on me. If you’re not familiar with farro, it’s a whole grain that’s often used in salads, soups, sides, and breakfasts dishes, or cooked like risotto. Most people think of and refer to farro as one variety of grain, but there are actually three different types composed of the grains of three ancient species of wheat. The most common found in the US, and the one you might already be familiar with, comes from Emmer wheat. It’s earthy, nutty, chewy and really satisfying. It’s also packed with fiber, vitamin B3, and zinc. Zinc is my favorite things to overload on to help cure a cold, so that was a great bonus!
If you’ve not had a chance to try farro yet, I’d really recommend it. Not only is it good for you, it’s also great tasting and versatile. It maintains its chewy texture better than rice or pasta in liquid, so it’s especially ideal for soups and dishes with a bit of moisture. I used semi-pearled farro which is probably the easiest kind to find. It has some (but not all) of its bran removed so it cooks up in about 30 minutes and doesn’t require overnight soaking like the whole-grain variety. It is not gluten-free, but it does have a significantly lower gluten content than most modern varieties of wheat.
This salad was just what the doctor ordered. It’s filling and savory with just a hint sweetness and tang. It also has a wonderful mix of textures and flavors. The chewy farro, crunchy cashews, creamy goat cheese, and tender brussels sprouts with a bit of bite inside made for such an interesting and satisfying combination. The sweet and tangy dressing, sweet tart cherries, nutty farro, and toasty roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes all pair really well together and made every bite super flavorful and delicious.
I would say that this salad is best when its first tossed together and still warm, but it was pretty tasty served cold with lunch the next day too. It somehow tasted sweeter cold so if you’d prefer to serve it chilled you might want to cut back on the cherries or tone down the honey in the dressing. Also, if you plan to make this ahead, I’d suggest that you wait to add the cashews until just before serving, as they can absorb moisture and oils from the dressing and lose their crunch.
When you’re mixing in the goat cheese, be careful not to squish it. It’s so soft and creamy and so mildly flavored that it could get lost in the salad if it’s completely incorporated. I think it’s best if there are some separate gobs of it interspersed throughout the salad.
Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts
2 cups semi-pearled farro
3 cups small brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 3 cups of cubes)
1 red onion, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
1/3 dried cherries, roughly chopped
2-3 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Combine farro, 6 cups of water, and 1 tsp of salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place sweet potato cubes into a heat proof bowl, and cover with enough boiling water to cover completely. Let soak for 10 minutes. Carefully drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over a parchment lined sheet pan. Set aside.
In the same bowl, toss halved brussels sprouts and onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over another parchment lined sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes along with the sweet potatoes.
Add roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, & onions, as well as the chopped cherries and cashews to the bowl with the farro while everything is still warm.
In a large measuring cup combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until well combined. Pour over salad and mix until incorporated. Crumble goat cheese over the salad and lightly toss to combine.