Adapt famous farro salad for your own palate

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Last winter, I came across a recipe for the famous Charlie Bird’s farro salad from the namesake restaurant in New York City. With farro as the base, the salad was resplendent with fresh herbs and tomatoes, ingredients I usually have in my garden – but not in December. I bookmarked the recipe, and put it on hold. This summer I finally got around to making it.

What merits this particular farro salad’s claim to fame? To start, the farro is cooked in apple cider and aromatics. This imparts a deep savory-sweet flavor to the nutty taste of the farro. It is then tossed with a zingy dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. This part of the salad can be done ahead of time, making it a great choice for a dinner party. Another option is to use the farro base to make individual weekday salads.

Right before serving, you add an array of ingredients – crunchy nuts, sweet tomatoes and peppery arugula. A generous addition of fresh herbs rounds out the flavors. With an exuberance of so many colors and textures, the salad is almost a work of art.

The first time I try out a new recipe, I attempt to follow it as written. Sometimes, however, this is not practical. I have heirloom tomatoes from my garden, so running to the store for cherry tomatoes from Mexico seemed downright silly. I also found that the amount of salt called for in the original recipe was way too much for my taste.

Below is my adaptation of Charlie Bird’s farro salad. Using the cooked farro as a base, feel free to make your own additions and subtractions.

The toppings can be adjusted to taste on a base of flavored farro in this versatile salad.

Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad

  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups arugula leaves
  • 1 cup parsley or basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 cup mint leaves, roughly torn
  • ¾ cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced radish
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved on the coarse side of the grater
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios

Place the farro in a strainer, and rinse well with cold water and drain. In a medium saucepan, bring the farro, apple cider, water, salt and bay leaves to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the farro is tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 to 40 minutes. Another option is to cook it in a rice cooker or Instant Pot. Let cool, then discard the bay leaves.

In a salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add the farro and mix well. Just before serving, fold in the arugula, herbs, tomatoes, radish and a few pinches of salt. Top with the chopped pistachios and Parmesan. Serve at room temperature.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.