How to Prepare a Delicious Salad with Fennel & Farro
This is a Middle Eastern style salad featuring farro and fresh peas. The recipe and ingredients were meant to be a vegetarian meal by itself for four people but we prepared it as a side dish to bring to a Memorial Day barbecue and it was a huge hit.
Farro is one of those trendy ingredients that has been around a long time, a really long time, and is one of the current “in” products.
The Bob’s Red Mill website says “Farro is an ancient relative of modern-day wheat. It was a mainstay of the daily diet in ancient Rome, and is still popular in Italy today.”
I realized when I researched farro for this post, there is just too much great information I have to get my head around before I share it with you. I’ll leave it to say, farro is part of the wheat species and is not one grain, but the name for 3 different types of grain.
There, that’s all I’m going to say on this for now, but I’m working on a post that will go into detail.
Fennel & Farro Salad Recipe
This recipe is adapted from one sent to us by Blue Apron. It features three ingredients that you may not have heard of before but worth the effort to find, keep in your pantry, and use to invent other dishes with a Middle Eastern feel to them.
One of the ingredients is Za’atar, a popular blend of spices you can find and combine yourself or purchase as a spice blend in your local gourmet market. You’ll definitely find it at any Middle Eastern grocery store.
Although the ingredients may differ depending on where your recipe originates or which brand you buy, it’s typically made with ground marjoram, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. You might also find some coriander, fennel seed, savory or cumin.
The second ingredient is pomegranate molasses. I wrote about this ingredient and have a recipe for it here, but you may be able to find it at a local gourmet market. If not, you can definitely purchase it on Amazon – Pomegranate Molasses. It’s basically pomegranate juice reduced down with sugar and lemon.
The third ingredient is pea tips. You most likely aren’t going to find them in your local supermarket but you may find them at a gourmet market like Trader Joe’s and you will definitely find them at any Chinese grocery.
They are the tender leaves of a pea plant and you want to find them with short stems and thick leaves. If you can’t find them, baby spinach is a good substitute.
Fennel & Farro Salad Recipe
Start Cooking the Farro
- The longest task when making this salad is cooking the farro. Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farro and cook until tender about 20 minutes.
- When the farro is done, drain and reserve in a large bowl. Wash the pot you cooked the farro, you'll be using it to cook the rest of this dish.
Prep the Ingredients
- While the farro is cooking, it's time to prep the rest of the ingredients. Be sure to wash and dry any and all of the fresh greens.
- Shell the English peas, reserving the peas and discarding the pods.
- Remove the stems from the fennel bulbs and discard. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise and carefully cut out and throw out the cores. Thinly slice the fennel bulb cutting crosswise.
- Cut the onions in half, peel and cut into thin slices. Roughly chop the pea tips
- Zest one of the lemons to get 4 teaspoons of zest. Quarter both lemons, remove as many seeds as you can and reserve.
- Pluck the leaves off the mint stems, save the leaves, discard the stems.
Let's Get Cooking
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and blanch the peas for 4 to 5 minutes until they turn brightly green.
- Drain through a colander and rinse under cold water for a minute to stop the cooking. Reserve.
- In the pot you cooked the farro, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, fennel and za'atar.
- Cook until the fennel softens and these ingredients become fragrant, about 8 to 11 minutes. Be sure to give an occasional stir so nothing burns and sticks to the bottom of the pot.
- To this pot, add the pea tips and sunflower seeds and season with salt & pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the pea tips turn bright green. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Add the reserved farro, blanched peas, lemon zest, pomegranate molasses and the juice from 4 lemon wedges.
- Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil into the mix, season with salt & pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings.
- Transfer to a large serving bowl, garnish with the feta cheese and mint leaves and serve.