When I tasted the salad, I couldn’t put my finger on what missing the first time around. I thought perhaps nuts, dried fruits, chile powder, might be the key. Then I realized it was the bitter greens (radicchio), which I like sautéed, because that seems to accentuate their bite. But if you can’t find that, use Belgian endive, frisée, kale, mustard, or another green. For more crunch, you can leave it raw and toss it in with the tomatoes.
Of course, you can vary the ingredients: cooked asparagus slices, peas, fava beans, and butternut squash come to mind. (If using squash, a pinch of cinnamon would be nice.) I use basil, but another herb, such as fresh dill, mint, or flat leaf parsley would work as well. If you have any feta, try crumbling some on top.
1 1/2 cup (825g) farro
2 bay leaves
2 quarts (2L) water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound (225g) mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
2-3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 small head radicchio
1/2 cup (90g) green or black olives, pitted and chopped
2 cups (30g) loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound (225g) cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if they’re large
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
1. In a large pot, cover the farro with the water and bay leaves and cook at a low boil, stirring infrequently to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom, until cooked. Add more water during the cooking if necessary. Depending on the farro (check the package), it can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to get cooked.
2. While the farro is cooking, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-to-high heat and sauté the mushrooms seasoning them with salt and pepper until they’re seared and cooked through. Add the thyme, then stir in the garlic and radicchio and continue to cook until the radicchio is wilted and cooked through. (It will discolor, which is normal, and will be delicious.)
3. Once cooked, transfer the vegetables into a large bowl.
4. When the farro is completely cooked (it will still be toothsome, but soft enough not to have any crunch left), drain, pluck out the bay leaves, and let sit until room temperature.
5. Once the vegetables are cool, if they’re not in bite-sized pieces, spread them on a cutting board and chop them a bit until they are, then return them to the bowl.
6. Add the olives, basil, tomatoes, and onion and farro to the vegetables.
7. Briskly stir together all the ingredients for the dressing and stir the dressing into the salad. Serve at room temperature.
Variations: To make the salad heartier, toss in chunks of feta cheese, roast chicken, grilled tofu. A squirt of lemon is also nice to brighten the flavors. You can also serve the salad warm by mixing together all the ingredients and serving while still warm.
Storage: The salad can be kept up to three days in the refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before serving.