Just a few ingredients pack a ton of flavor into this dish. Nutty farro paired with crunchy asparagus, and creamy feta tossed with a bright lemony dressing and fresh mint create a light, yet filling side ready complement all things grilled or BBQ this summer.
This was the first weekend that finally felt like spring might arrive in New England. With (slightly) warmer temps, sunshine, and the first blooms making an appearance, I finally have hope that this winter may actually wave goodbye. I can almost feel the late spring and summer nights on our porch dining with a simple, light meal and a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc soaking up all this season has to offer. We spend as much time as possible outside from May until October including eating almost every meal on our porch (the same porch that sold me on buying this house and moving to the suburbs). With such long winters, it's hard not to.
I recently joined a group of other dietitians and healthy food bloggers called the Recipe Redux, which is a monthly recipe challenge started by registered dietitians that focuses on taking delicious dishes and making them better for you, without losing the yum factor, of course. This is right up my alley since my goal here at Simply Nourished with Sarah is to celebrate delicious food that also happens to be good for you.
To kick off the best time of year, we are celebrating Picnic Day, which is tomorrow (Monday, April 23rd) with a recipe that is perfect for dining al fresco. I don't know who comes up with these "holidays," (they do seem kind of silly, don't you think?) but I'll take any reason to celebrate having a picnic. It brings me back to the days I spent in NYC and San Francisco when we'd pack up a cooler of things to share – cheese, bread, a couple of salads and a bottle or two of wine – and sunbathe/people watch in one of the many amazing parks both cities have to offer. This salad would have been perfect for those days.
Like most of my recipes, this salad is multipurpose and extremely flexible. It's great for a picnic, BBQ, pool party, or even just a quiet dinner at home (outside dining not required, but highly encouraged!) because it can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. And it's more filling and better-for-you than a traditional cookout pasta salad, which of course wins me over. Here's what else I love about this dish:
- It's light yet filling because of all of the fiber found in the farro (an ancient whole grain) and asparagus.
- It can be made ahead and sits well with the dressing even up to a few days in the fridge.
- It's quick and easy to make so you can spend more time in the sunshine and less time in the kitchen.
- It's great as a side or can be easily made into a main dish by topping it with your protein of choice (suggested: grilled salmon, grilled chicken or white beans). I've been eating it over a bed of baby spinach and topped with leftover grilled chicken for an quick, balanced lunch.
- Leftovers! Make a double or triple batch and take it for lunch (see above).
If you haven't tried farro before, you can get it at pretty much any grocery store in either the bulk section or by the rice/other grains. It has a bit of a chewy texture and nutty flavor, which I love. You could also probably use wheat berries (use less dressing) or for a gluten-free option try short grain brown rice (much less fiber and protein though!).
Tell me: what are you excited for this spring?
- 1 cup uncooked farro
- 2 cups water
- 1 bunch (about 1lb) asparagus (I used a mix of green and purple, but any color is good. Look for fatter stalks for ease of shaving)
- 1/4 cup sheeps milk feta, crumbled (or goats cheese)
- 2-3 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped (this does not need to be exact - use your judgement on how minty you'd like it)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt and Pepper to taste