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Farro Tabboulleh with Roasted Chicken

I became a little infatuated with farro a couple of years ago when I noticed a local company, Bluebird Grain Farms, selling it at the U-Dist Farmers’ Market.  The earthy, warm-colored grains looked nutty and hearty.  Soon after I would notice it every now and then on a restaurant menu but it took some time before I attempted to cook it myself.
Farro is a type of wheat.  I’m still sorting through all of the information about farro but it is also sometimes called spelt – although spelt seems to be one type of farro which cooks up a little softer than other types.  It is also sometimes called emmer which, is another type of farro and is the version Bluebird Grains grows and sells.  Just leaving all the technical information aside for the moment, suffice it to say that farro is a type of wheat, most often sold as the whole grain.  It is very popular in Italy and also in the Middle East.  While it can be eaten plain, you are more likely to find it in a soup or salad or as the base for a side dish.  Farro makes great summertime salads and, as fall draws near, adds a soul-warming hardiness to the plate.
It is often recommended that you soak it over night before cooking but I’ve found you can cook it without soaking, it just takes a little longer for it to reach the soft-but-firm stage that is characteristic of the grain. 
I recently picked up a recipe from the Bluebird Grains booth at the Ballard Farmers’ Market (they are at several Seattle-area farmers’ markets and their products are available at many retail locations, as well as online) for Split Farro Tabboulleh.  I used whole farro and just allowed a little more time for cooking.  I was pleasantly surprised to notice the recipe is from a local chef I follow, Becky Selengut! That was a nice bonus.
Farro Tabboulleh
Adapted from the original recipe, courtesy of Chef Becky Selengut
  • 1 cup Emmer-Farro
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium Cucumber, seeds removed, cut into medium dice
  • 2 Roasted red peppers, cut into small dice
  • 1 bunch Parsley, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons Mint, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 3 Green onions, thinly sliced 
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Feta (Israeli or French), small diced 
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Add the farro, water and kosher salt to a medium saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the farro is tender, about 50 – 60 minutes.  Drain any remaining water.  Transfer the farro to a medium to large bowl, toss it occasionally to help it cool.
Once cool add the cucumber, roasted red peppers, parsley, mint, olives and green onions.  In a separate small bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and a little salt and pepper.  Combine with the farro mixture. 
Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.  Top with the feta and serve. 
This salad should hold for a few days if you have leftovers. 
Notes:  Becky’s recipe called for all ingredients to be finely diced or minced but I prefer my ingredients to have a little more of a presence so I mostly left them a little larger.  This is a great recipe to customize to your own tastes – vary the amounts or even the ingredients based on your preferences. For instance, adding some fresh corn to the salad would be really good. 
I originally served this dish as a side dish as part of a picnic.  The following day I topped it with some leftover roasted chicken and made it my lunch!

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