Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Buttermilk Farro Salad

If your first impression is that this recipe looks suspiciously similar to my Dilled, Crunchy Sweet-Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, you are not incorrect. Yes, both recipes feature a starchy carb base, buttermilk dressing, and lots of dill. However. While the corn salad conjures a chilled summer soup— sweet, drinkable and milky—this Buttermilk Farro Salad is far meatier, almost like a creamy risotto. The buttermilk, too, takes on a different function. Rather than a dribbling dressing that pools at the bottom, the liquid is slick; coating the farro just barely, luxuriously, like melted cheese.

Any likeness to richness stops there. The farro is delicately peppered with slivered late summer vegetables, impossibly refreshing in their raw, slender form. Sometimes I forget that an unaccustomed texture has the power to make a vegetable feel like an entirely different ingredient. Zucchini often gets tiresome past its mid-summer zenith, but barely-there ribbons feel completely new. Fennel is frequently braised in pursuit of its caramelized potential, but here, the wispy mandolined strips are a total breath of fresh air, like a more flavorful celery.

If you are unfamiliar with chives, do seek them out if you can—they are the cherry on top of a salad bellowing summer, though scallions are a perfectly acceptable alternative. You can probably tell that this recipe is included in my "big batch salad" list from a mile away; indeed, I made a double serving for the week, mixing in arugula, chickpeas, and hard-boiled egg for a hefty lunch.
Aside from a trip to the farmers market/grocery, this salad is essentially a pantry dish. That goes for the buttermilk too: 1 tablespoon of lemon juice stirred into 1 cup regular milk makes a quick homemade batch. As we approach the part of summer where we are reminded of its mortality (shorter days, brisker morning temperatures), the widespread “did I make the most of this season??” panic sweeps in. Inevitably, this premature nostalgia is followed by a scurry of bucket-list picnics and beach visits, so when it’s time to menu-plan, remember this salad! Consider it August, in a Tupperware.

Buttermilk Farro Salad (from 101 Cookbooks)
Serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main

2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped dill
½ cup chopped chives (can substitute scallions)
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
7 small radishes, sliced paper thin
3 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
1 medium head of fennel, trimmed and sliced paper thin
4 cups cooked farro, cooled to room temp
chopped chives for garnish
Arugula, chickpeas, hardboiled eggs (optional, for serving)

1. Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board. Mash into a paste using the flat side of your knife. Place in a medium bowl or jar, then add the buttermilk and vinegar. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the herbs.

2. In a large bowl gently toss the radishes, zucchini, and fennel with the farro grains. Add 1 cup of the dressing and toss again. Let sit for ten minutes, taste, and adjust with more dressing, if needed, and salt to taste. Serve sprinkled with chives.