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EATING well

Farro and Vegetable Salad is packed with fresh goodness

Farro and vegetable salad pairs nicely with cucumber ranch dressing, a magical ingredient.

Associated Press

Farro and vegetable salad pairs nicely with cucumber ranch dressing, a magical ingredient.

Back in my restaurants days, we used to make a delicious summer salad of white rice with peas, shredded carrots and radishes dressed with a dill mayonnaise. It was tasty and filling but, in retrospect, I can't say it was terribly nutritious. But I figured there had to be a way to make it lighter, and there was.

I started by replacing the white rice with farro. An ancient and nutritious form of whole wheat from Italy, farro boasts a pleasingly nutty taste and a slightly chewy texture. It's not as popular here as it should be because too many home cooks think that it is complicated or time consuming to make. Neither is true.

What is true is that the prep time for farro depends largely on the variety you buy. There are three kinds sold in America: whole, semipearled and pearled. All three tend to be labeled simply "farro," though the instructions on the back of the package are more specific.

Whole farro, bran and husk included, is the most nutritious and takes the longest to cook. Pearled farro, with the bran and husk removed, takes the least time.

I retired the peas in the original recipe in favor of edamame, which can really jack up the protein content. Most grocers offer both shelled and in-the-pod varieties (check the freezer aisle).

I've retained the shredded carrots and the radishes from the original recipe, but I've ditched the full-fat mayonnaise in favor of ranch dressing. Thanks to its buttermilk base, ranch dressing is a magical ingredient. I partnered the buttermilk with a bit of oil, a bit of low-fat mayonnaise and some garlic and fresh herbs. Then, I kicked in a twist of my own, chopped cucumber.

FARRO AND VEGETABLE SALAD

WITH CUCUMBER RANCH DRESSING

½ cup coarsely chopped seedless cucumber

¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

¼ cup buttermilk

½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon, dill or parsley

2 cups cooked farro (follow package directions)

1 cup cooked shelled edamame

1 cup coarsely shredded carrots

1 cup coarsely shredded radishes

½ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

In a blender, combine the cucumber, mayonnaise, buttermilk, garlic, lemon juice, oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Puree until smooth. Stir in the chives and tarragon, then transfer to a jar and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the farro, edamame, carrots and radishes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, add the feta to the salad, if using. Toss the salad with two thirds of the dressing, then divide among 6 serving plates. Serve the extra dressing on the side.

Serves 6.

Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories (110 calories from fat, 46 percent of total calories); 12g fat (3g saturated, 0g trans fats); 15mg cholesterol; 26g carbohydrates; 5g fiber; 3g sugar; 9g protein; 310mg sodium.

Farro and Vegetable Salad is packed with fresh goodness 05/29/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014 6:51pm]
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