This warm farro salad with basil is an aromatic and easy dinner recipe, and who doesn’t love a filling warm grain salad recipe? Load this warm farro with charred zucchini, green olives, and plenty of basil and fresh watercress.
Farro is a great vessel for all the aromatic, spicy, charred flavors in this warm grain salad. Farro is an ancient grain that dates back to Mesopotamia and has been a long popular staple in Italy. Packed with fiber and protein, farro makes a great addition to your weekly rotation.
Most grocery stores in America will carry the Bob’s Red Mill variety of pearled farro which is excellent for a quick weeknight dinner as it only takes about 15-25 minutes to cook. If you continue your search, you can also find whole farro, which leaves the grain intact. It also takes longer to cook and benefits from an overnight soak. The whole farro takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to cook.
How to make this Warm Farro Salad with Basil:
The great part about this recipe is that so much of the cooking happens while the farro simmers. Once the farro is tender, you drain it and chuck it in with all your ingredients.
The salad ingredients are simple:
- Diced onion
- Sliced hot pepper (such as red Fresno)
- Watercress (or spinach, arugula, or baby kale)
- Green olives
First, you will brown the onions in the skillet. You need not fully caramelize them, but you want them to be well-cooked. Next, arrange the zucchini and sliced hot pepper on top in an even layer and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer to the broiler and cook until the zucchini chars. Depending on your broiler, this could take 3 minutes or 10 minutes. Check the zucchini regularly and continue cooking until it develops char marks.
Return the pan to the stovetop and turn the heat to high to lightly brown the other size of the zucchini and cook off excess water.
From there, add the olives, basil, and watercress and cook until just wilted. Add the farro and season again to taste. That’s it! It is that simple.
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Warm Farro Salad with Basil
- Wide skillet
- Medium pot
- 1 cup pearled farro
- 3 cups water
- 2 teaspoons neutral oil
- 1 tablespoon plant-based butter optional
- 1 yellow onion peeled and diced
- 1 red Fresno chili pepper trimmed and sliced into rounds
- 2 medium zucchini trimmed and sliced into half-moons
- 2 teaspoons olive oil or use more neutral oil
- 4 ounces basil leaves cut in a chiffonade; a few leaves reserved for garnish
- 6 ounces green olives rinsed if desired
- 5 ounces watercress
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the Farro:
- Bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the farro, reduce heat, and simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain and rinse.
Lightly Brown the Onions:
- Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, and once frothy, add the onions. Cook the onions, often stirring, 8-12 minutes until the onions begin to turn golden brown. They need not be fully caramelized. Season lightly with salt.
Broil the Zucchini:
- Turn on the broiler. Arrange the zucchini and sliced red Fresno pepper on top of the onions in an even layer. It’s okay if there is some overlap! Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the skillet to the broiler and cook, regularly checking, for 3-5 minutes until char marks develop on the zucchini. It may take longer depending on your broiler, but check the zucchini often!
Finish the Vegetables:
- Transfer the skillet back to the stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high. Allow the zucchini to cook without moving, for an additional 5-6 minutes or until excess water is cooked off and the bottom of the zucchini begins to brown. Don’t overcook the zucchini! It should still be bright green in places.
- Add the sliced basil to the skillet along with the olives and watercress and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes until the watercress wilts.
Finish the Farro Salad:
- Add the cooked farro to the skillet and toss to combine. Taste and season again to your preferences. Turn off the heat and serve warm. Garnish with a few additional basil leaves, if you like.