Roasting eggplants when they are in season brings out their lush silkiness and natural sweetness. Here they shine in a simple yet aromatic salad with plump kernels of farro. Fresh as well as dried mint add layers of flavor. Don't let the few steps deter you — this creation comes together seamlessly.
The salad is fabulous next to any grilled meat, such as steak, chicken, or lamb. Vegetarians can top it with crumbled ricotta salata or feta.
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I absolutely adore roasted eggplant; it makes a great addition to grain salads. The eggplant soaks up lots of flavor from the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness. Toss it all together with chewy farro and you've got a satisfying whole-grain salad to enjoy!
- Christine, August 2015
Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Pine Nuts
Serves 4 to 6
- For the farro:
semi-pearled farro, or about 3 cups cooked farro
dried red chile pepper, optional
minced hot green chile such as serrano, optional
Aleppo pepper, or more as needed
dried mint, preferably spearmint, optional
- For the salad:
1 1/2 pounds
eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
medium red onion, thinly sliced (less than 1/4 inch)
extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
loosely packed torn fresh mint leaves
white balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
lightly toasted pine nuts
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.
To prepare the farro, add the water, farro, bay leaf, and dried chile to a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the grain is tender with a slight chew, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and chile, drain if needed, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the minced chile, Aleppo pepper, and dried mint and toss to combine.
Meanwhile, to make the salad, place the eggplant and the onion on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, and combine well, using your hands. If you don’t mind the extra dish, it’s a bit easier to toss everything in a large bowl.
Roast the mixture until the eggplant pieces have softened and are browned in spots, and the onion slices have caramelized, turning them once with a spatula in between, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately sprinkle the vegetables with 1/4 cup of the fresh mint and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the vinegar. Toss well with a spatula — this will soften the mint leaves and take the sting out of the vinegar.
To finish, add the warm eggplant mixture to the farro. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar and toss to combine. Season with salt and vinegar to taste. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup mint and the pine nuts and serve.
Make it ahead: The vegetables can be roasted one day ahead; the farro can be cooked a few days earlier. Refrigerate in separate containers; bring to room temperature before serving, about one hour. You can prepare the salad — without adding the remaining 1/4 cup mint and the pine nuts — up to four hours ahead. Refrigerate, covered; remove about one hour ahead to bring to room temperature before serving. Drizzle on a bit more olive oil and vinegar to refresh if needed, then finish with mint and nuts.
To speed things up, I use semi-pearled farro here, but feel free to use whole grain farro or farro piccolo.
Reprinted with permission from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.