This salad is a little celebration of the fact that, at least around here, Meyer lemon season overlaps with the beginning of the spring asparagus feast. The sweet and herbal citrus plays beautifully with a chewy mix of farro, pearl couscous, and crisp asparagus. Toss in some almonds and goat cheese and lunch is ready!
I've made this salad so many times since I first shared it with you. The mix of Meyer lemon with asparagus is classic and deserves to be repeated every spring.
I also haven't grown tired of the grain mix in this recipe. Sometimes I use wheat berries or spelt instead of farro, and orzo works just as well as pearl couscous, although my favorite in this salad is Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend. I love its mix of colors and textures (and I just discovered you can buy it on Amazon!).
This is hearty enough for a main dish for lunch, and the grain gives it a filling heft without being overly heavy. You can even omit the cheese for a vegan potluck dish that everyone will love.
No Meyer lemons? No problem. If you don't have Meyer lemons just use whatever lemons you can get your hands on.
Tip: Spread the cooked grains on a baking sheet to cool. They will cool faster and stay more firm and distinct in the salad.
Meyer Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
8 ounces (1 1/4 cups) pearled farro
8 ounces (1 1/4 cups) pearl (Israeli) couscous or Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend
2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
4 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
1 tablespoon walnut oil, optional
Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Salt the water generously. Add the farro, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until al dente. (If substituting another grain such as spelt or wheat berries, follow package instructions or use this method: A No-Fuss Method for Cooking Almost Any Whole Grain.)
Meanwhile, in another 2-quart saucepan, cook the pearl couscous or Harvest Grain Blend according to package directions.
Spread the grains and pearl couscous on a large baking sheet and set aside to cool. Zest the lemons over the grains and stir to combine.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large sauté over medium high heat and cook the asparagus until just barely crisp-tender — about 2 minutes.
Toss the cooled grains with the asparagus in a large bowl. Add the sliced almonds and goat cheese.
Whisk the Meyer lemon juice with 1/4 cup olive oil and the walnut oil, if using. Taste and adjust. Pour over the grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.
This salad lasts very well in the fridge; the herbal flavors of the Meyer lemons bloom nicely when it sits.
Substitutions: You can substitute spelt, wheat berries, or another hearty grain for the pearled farro. You can substitute orzo or another small pasta for the pearl couscous or Trader Joe's Harvest Grain blend.
Walnut Oil: I love the extra nuttiness the walnut oil adds to the this recipe but it's strictly optional. You can also use another flavorful oil such as hazelnut or even sesame.
Add Chicken Broth: One more way to add even more flavor to this recipe is to cook the grains in chicken or vegetable broth instead of water.
This recipe was originally published April 2008.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)