I’m fond of farro, but not unconditionally; its appeal depends a lot on the company it keeps. The first time I tried it, in a salad with butternut squash, I didn’t like it. The second, third, and fourth times, with beef, mushrooms, and tomatoes, respectively, I loved it. But the fifth time, recently, with peaches and arugula (so pretty!), was less successful. Lesson learned: For me, the keys to a good farro dish are bold flavors, especially umami and acid. So when I saw a recipe online for orzo with roasted tomatoes and kale, I thought, “I bet that would work well with farro!”—and I was right.
Roasted tomatoes have become staples in my kitchen. They were on my list of favorite recipes of 2012, got added to a pizza that made the list in 2013, and are a major component of the pizza that will probably end up one of my 2014 greatest hits. It was actually that 2013 roasted tomato, kale, and feta pizza that inspired me to add feta to this salad, and its strong briny creaminess is another important counterbalance to the earthy, chewy farro. I amped up the tartness with a basic balsamic vinaigrette (the orzo recipe only had oil, no vinegar), and long story short, I loved the end result. It’s enough to inspire me to turn on the oven even in the dog days of summer, but it will also make a perfect winter salad during the long stretches when kale dominates the produce displays (particularly since you don’t need perfect in-season tomatoes for roasting; the insipid grocery-store kind do just as well). Grains and greens, cheese and caramelized tomatoes—what more can you ask for?
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes (about 3 cups), halved
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
¾ teaspoon salt, divided, plus extra to taste
1 cup uncooked farro
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
About 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cherry tomatoes on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, maple syrup, and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, cut side up, and roast, without stirring, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and caramelize around the edges, 45 to 60 minutes. (You can do this up to a week ahead of time if you like—just let the tomatoes cool, scrape them into a glass or plastic container along with any liquid that was left on the baking sheet, seal tightly, and store in the refrigerator.)
- While the tomatoes roast, in a medium saucepan combine the farro and enough cold water to cover it by about an inch. Soak for 20 minutes. Drain well and return the farro to the pan, again covering it with cold water. Add a few generous pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the farro is tender but still has some bite. Drain well and spread on a clean baking sheet to cool.
- While farro is cooking and cooling, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and ¼ cup olive oil in a small bowl until emulsified.
- Place the shredded kale in a large bowl and toss with about half the dressing. Mix well with your hands and let sit for at least 15 minutes until softened.
- When the farro and tomatoes have cooled to room temperature, add them to the kale along with the rest of the dressing. Crumble in feta to taste and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Great.