We've been thinking a lot about seasonal transition dishes lately, and warm grain salads fit the bill perfectly. One of our favorites pairs the earthy comfort of a lentil and farro pilaf with a crisp tomato, cucumber, and sweet pepper salad that still sings of summer.
Hearty brown or green lentils are combined with farro, which provides a satisfying chewiness; spelt may also be substituted. The pilaf is then topped with a salad inspired by Greek horiatiki salata. The fruit sizes given below are just a guide, you can mix it up according to whichever varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are available and tastiest at the moment. Although we haven't included classic Greek salad ingredients such as feta cheese and olives here, they can also add a nice touch.
Late Summer Lentil Salad
Serves 4 to 6
For the pilaf
1 cup farro
1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
Extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
2 medium tomatoes
2 medium cucumbers
1 large sweet pepper
1 small onion
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
To make pilaf
Put farro, 4 cups water, and salt in a medium or large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender but still chewy – about 40 minutes.
Once farro is on the stove, rinse and sort the lentils. Put in a separate pot with bay leaf and water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender – about 30 minutes.
When farro and lentils are done cooking, drain any excess water. Remove bay leaf from lentils. Combine farro and lentils into one pot, tossing with a little olive oil.
To make salad
Make the dressing and salad while the farro and lentils are cooking. In a large bowl, whisk olive oil into lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions into bite-size pieces. Add to the bowl with the oregano and toss to coat with dressing.
To serve, plate the pilaf and then top with the salad. The contrast of warm grains and beans and refreshing salad makes this a particularly good seasonal transition meal, but the dish can also be refrigerated for up to a day and served cold.
From the Files: Warm Grain Salads for Fall
Recipe: Herbed Lentils with Bacon
Recipe: Smashed Lentils With Egg
Recipe: Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Squash, Persimmons and Pecans
Warm Lentil Salad for a New Year
(Image: Gregory Han and Emily Ho)