Happy Spring! We’ve officially made it past the cold, dark winter - hooray! I’ve been getting outside everyday on my long walk, I love feeling the fresh air and sunshine on my face. Each day, I notice signs of springtime - the buds are beginning to appear on the trees and the stems of flowers are poking through the ground. The grass is looking greener, the world just feels a little bit brighter…don’t you think?
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I enjoy eating as seasonally and locally as possible. Those two descriptive words - seasonally and locally - have become buzzwords over the last few years, but I use them with full-intention. Eating seasonally means that I’m choosing produce that grows in the particular time of the year. For example, strawberries grow in the spring and summer months, so I buy and consume them anytime from May thru September. Meanwhile, butternut squash grows in the cooler months of the year, so I buy and prepare it from October until March. (note that these dates are approximate, given where I currently live in Maryland, and may be different in other parts of the country and abroad). Local foods are grown within a given distance from where I live. For example, local apples can be grown a mile from my house or 100 miles from my house, but they’re not the ones that come from South America. Same goes for cucumbers, which are often grown in Mexico, but can just as easily be grown outside my back door during the right season.
Coming into springtime, I’m excited for the bounty of green vegetables that are available. The first tender stalks of asparagus, the ramps, and the sweet peas. But right now, we’re in-between the winter and spring growing season, which makes eating seasonally and locally a bit of a challenge. I’m truly tired of winter squash by this point in the year, but it’s still an option at the store. But I’m craving green! I found the most beautiful Romanesco Cauliflower last week, grown locally in Maryland, and knew I needed to make something delicious with it. Have you ever cooked with Romanesco? It’s very similar to white cauliflower, but I find the florets to be more compact and a bit sweeter. My favorite way to prepare Romanesco is to roast it with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt, so it gets crunchy on the edges - yum! Using the roasted Romanesco as a starting point, I was able to easily build a nourishing main-dish salad to welcome Spring.
The other ingredients in this substantial salad were found in my pantry: Farro, walnuts, as well as a lemon and a big handful of parsley from the fridge. Farro is an ancient grain that I hadn’t used in awhile, due to the fact that it is not gluten-free. I have found that my body can now tolerate Farro, and so I’m thrilled to reintroduce it into my menus. It is one of the oldest cultivated grains and was initially discovered in the fertile crescent. Today, Farro is more commonly grown in parts of Italy, where it is often used in similar preparations as rice. It has a nutty flavor and retains a chewiness when cooked. Use Farro in a grain salad for an upcoming picnic - perhaps this Springtime Farro Salad will come along in your picnic basket soon? Please note, if gluten is problematic for you, please simply replace the Farro with quinoa in this recipe!
Lemons and parsley are always in my fridge, they add the right amount of acidity and brightness to so many different dishes. For this salad, I use both the zest and the juice of a lemon. I chopped lots of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley to toss into the salad - try adding some chopped stems, along with the leaves, as they’re delicious and full of nutrients! I love to add toasted walnuts to grain salads, they provide a richness from their healthy fat content and plenty of crunch, too. If you prefer another kind of nut (or seed), feel free to make a substitution. In the notes section of the recipe (below), I also gave some ideas for adding shredded poached chicken or grilled fish or seafood to the salad, it’s completely optional. You could also sprinkle some cheese on top (see my ideas in the notes). Whatever way you choose to make the Springtime Farro Salad, it’s surely going to be delicious and a welcome addition to your Spring season table!
What seasonal and local fruits and vegetables are you excited to welcome into your kitchen this Spring? I’m always curious to learn what everyone else looks forward to eating when the seasons change! Are there any Spring recipes that you’d like to see featured here? Tell me, I’ll do my best to provide my own version for you.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Springtime Farro Salad
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1 C uncooked Farro, rinsed & drained
1 head Romanesco Cauliflower
2 T + 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 C walnuts, toasted
2 C chopped Italian parsley
1 lemon, zest and juice (separate)
1/2 t maple syrup (optional)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat a medium-sized saucepan with water to boil. Once boiling, add a good amount of sea salt - you want the water to be salty. Pour the Farro into the pan and stir. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the Farro is cooked al-dente (still slightly chewy in the middle), approximately 15-18 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water. Drain again and pour into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
While the Farro is cooking, roast the Romanesco Cauliflower. Cut the head of Romanesco into florets, approximately 1 1/2-inches in size. Toss on a sheet pan with 2T extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle sea salt on top. Roast the Romanesco for 15-20 minutes, flipping the pieces over partway through the cooking to assure even browning. The pieces should be crispy on the edges with a slight char, if desired. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes.
Chop the toasted walnuts into small pieces - you want them larger than the grains of Farro, but not too large. Add the walnuts to the bowl with the Farro, along with the chopped parsley and lemon zest. Toss gently to distribute the ingredients. Add the roasted Romanesco to the bowl and toss again.
Make the dressing in a small mixing bowl. Combine the juice of one lemon, 1/2 t maple syrup (optional) and 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil. Stir vigorously with a fork to make a smooth mixture. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Pour dressing over Farro mixture and toss. Taste the Farro and adjust the seasonings as needed, adding more salt, pepper, olive oil and/or lemon juice, if necessary. The flavors should be bold and punchy!
Serve the salad at room temperature.
recipe yields 5-6 generous servings
leftovers keep well, in a covered container in the refrigerator, for 2-3 days; toss gently prior to serving
substitute roasted broccoli or another green vegetable (asparagus or zucchini would also be delicious) in place of the Romanesco Cauliflower
add shredded poached chicken or some grilled fish or seafood to the salad, if desired
top the salad with shaved parmesan cheese or crumbled goat cheese to add another flavor note