Joyce Goldstein, author of Antipasti: Fabulous Appetizers and Small Plates
Grain salads lend themselves well to an antipasto assortment. For salads and soups, Pugliese cooks pound wheat berries to break the outer casing, arriving at a homemade version of cracked wheat (grano pestato). I prefer the sweeter, nuttier, and lighter textured farro found primarily in Tuscany and Abruzzo for my grain salads.
At the Locanda dell’Arte in Citta Sant’Angelo, in Abruzzo, the kitchen staff prepares a salad by cooking farro in vegetable broth, adding cooked artichokes, corn, cucumbers, mushrooms, peas, carrots, tomatoes, capers, and olives, and then garnishing with tuna. I am not a fan of using so many ingredients in a single salad, but I do agree that tuna, olives, and capers work well with a basic farro and vegetable salad, so here is my slimmed-down version.
1 cup farro
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
¼ cup red wine vinegar, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped celery or fennel
1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
½ cup peeled, chopped carrot
3 preserved artichokes, cut into wedges or diced
4 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped (optional)
Large handful of arugula leaves, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)
1 small fresh red chile, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or mint
Oil-cured black olives for garnish (optional)
- To cook the farro, bring 2 ½ to 3 cups water to a boil and salt it lightly. Add the farro, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, checking for doneness after 20 to 25 minutes. When cooked the grain will be soft but still have some firmness at the center. If the farro is ready but not all the water has been absorbed, drain the cooked farro in a sieve. (Each brand absorbs water differently.) Place the drained farro in a bowl and let cool.
- Add the ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste to the cooled farro and toss to coat evenly. Then fold in the onion, celery, carrot, cucumber, artichokes, and the tomatoes, arugula, garlic, and chile, if using. Add the capers, parsley, and basil, taste and adjust the seasoning with more olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- Garnish the salad with olives, if desired. Serve at room temperature.
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