Seriously guys, I kinda *need* spring. Like shed those layers and layers of clothing, reach into the back of your closet to bring out those light, breezy, bright colors type of weather. Something about the first real warm weather of the year (that actually sticks), after the long, dreary days of winter give way to rebirth, green, freshness, and everything wonderful that is glorious spring. But here, we’ve had a very touch and go sorta spring with glorious sunshine and warmth one day only to have to pull out the winter coats and boots the next.
I tell people my favorite season is fall but truth be told, it’s actually spring. But when you live in crazy Chicago weather, where we go from blizzard conditions one day to record setting, turn-into-olaf-like-puddle days, you have to learn to channel the weather through wishful thinking (and food). Because spring is, after all, the start of bbq season, thriving herb and veggie gardens, and freshness. Lots of freshness. Like an abundance of basil, mint, and all things herbalicious.
A vibrant, herby, tangy, slightly sweet salad, filled with farro and crisp (and roasted) veggies is exactly what I need in my life right about now. Because I’m into this whole taking-care-of-me thing when I realized that I’ll be thirty-three this year. No joke. 3-3. And given that I’m really digging this renewal of self-care, I’m eating things like wholesome chia seed pudding and this herb, farro & citrus salad.
Don’t stare at me in disbelief; I still crave doughnuts, mac & cheese, and triple chocolate mocha trifle. But in slightly warm weather, where you just want to be outside and soak up the sun, I want roasted pepper and chickpea salad, veggie tagine, and garlic cauliflower mash. I want to utilize the fresh produce my community sustained agriculture (csa) will bring me come June and the herbs that my garden will soon grow.
This salad is filled with a ton of veggies and herbs. I’m talkin’ charry, roasted red and yellow peppers; crisp, clean cucumber; bright, punchy red onion; and earthy, flavorful herbs like mint, parsley, and basil. The roasted peppers are easy to do with a gas stove. I just turned the burner on full blast. Then, using a pair of tongs, very, very carefully, I placed one pepper at a time directly over the flame, rotating every minute or two, until all the sides were uniformly charred or blackened. As soon as the peppers were finished roasting, I threw them into a bowl, covered tightly with plastic wrap, and let them cool, and the steam continues to help loosen the skin. When they peppers were cool enough to handle, I scrapped off the skin, removed the seeds, and chopped the peppers. OR jarred, pre-roasted peppers work just fine too. I had yellow and red on hand but you can use all red, all yellow, or even orange.
The thing about this salad that really takes it from a salad to a SALAD (!) is the farro. Farro is one of those grains you always see at the store, think about trying it, but back out at the last second. It just seems very fancy, schmancy; like it can only be served at a restaurant that charges $100 for foam on a plate. But, you would be wrong my friends, because farro is simple and earthy. It is chewy, similar to the texture of al dente pasta and has a talent for absorbing whatever flavors you let it sit in. The bulk of the salad comes from the addition of farro. The farro is what enables this salad to pose as THE meal instead of an accompaniment to the meal.
Still with me and sitting in a puddle of drool? Good, then throw in some sweet, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds. Tossed in a slightly sweet dressing, laced with citrus undertones. Guys, this dressing…this dressing is out of this world. So much so that I made extra, marinated chicken breast in it, and grilled the breast to serve alongside the salad. The chicken is purely optional. The dressing is not. This dressing begs to be made. Using fresh oranges and lemons makes a huge difference and really lightens the flavor of the entire dish. And because it would be a shame to waste that incredible, natural citrus oil in the peels of the fruit, zest those babies right into the dressing!
I ate this salad for three days in a row. Thats right, three days. I’m not a fan of leftover salad, once tossed in dressing, because it falls apart the next day- the crispiness becomes a thought of the past. But this salad stayed nice and crisp. And CLEAN. You can add lettuce if you’re looking for even more bulk. But don’t add the lettuce in until right before serving because lettuce tends to fall apart with the addition of citrus and won’t keep in the fridge for three days in a row.
Now that spring is here, what type of light, herby, yummy dishes are you making? If you make this salad, or any other manna & spice dish, make sure to share on instagram and tag @mannaandspice so we can all see your lovely creations!
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 1 red pepper, roasted and diced
- 1 yellow pepper, roasted and diced
- 1/2 cup farro, cooked according to package directions
- 1 large cucumber (2–3 cups), seeded and diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup basil, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup mint, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3 tbsp sliced almonds
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- juice of 2 lemons (6 tbsp)
- juice of two oranges (6 tbsp)
- zest of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 tbsp honey
- PREPARE THE DRESSING: In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, lemon zest, orange zest, salt, pepper, and honey. Stir together. Slowly stream in lemon juice and orange juice into the bowl with the remaining ingredients, using a wire whisk to combine all ingredients. Set aside.
- MAKE THE SALAD: Add farro to a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing, until well coated. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together, stirring well to blend the farro with the vegetables.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.