Grain salads are one of my year-round staples, made with a changing array of vegetables and flavors to suit the season. In spring, I use them to highlight the effortless flavor and simplicity that comes with fresh ingredients. Here, chewy grains of farro set off the earthy sweetness of fresh peas and shoots, and meld wonderfully with creamy bits of herbed Capricho de Cabra goat cheese, mint leaves, and a savory champagne vinaigrette.
The season for fresh peas is brief, so seize the moment. If purchasing from the farmers market, you should be able to source flowering pea shoots at the same time; otherwise, check for pea shoots at Asian or specialty markets. Although somewhat different in flavor, watercress can be a nice substitute.
More on Pea Shoots: The Spring Veggie We Might Love More Than Asparagus
Farro has quickly replaced pasta as my favorite pantry staple. I keep both the regular kind and packages of pre-cooked 10-minute farro on hand for busy nights. After toying with other methods, my no-fail method is to toast the farro to a rich golden hue, then fill the pot with water and cook pasta-style to al dente.
I've used Capricho de Cabra goat cheese here, as I find it to be a bit more complex and creamy than standard chèvre, although either Capricho de Cabra or chèvre will be delicious in this salad.
Toasted Farro Salad with Fresh Peas, Pea Shoots, and Herbs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the farro salad:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry farro
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 pound fresh English peas, shelled
4 ounces herb-encrusted Capricho de Cabra cheese or goat's milk chèvre, crumbled
1 cup pea shoots and flowers, shoots torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
Freshly ground pepper to taste
To make the vinaigrette, whisk to combine green onion, garlic, champagne vinegar, lemon juice, and sea salt in a small bowl; whisk in honey and olive oil.
Set a large, wide-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, and when hot, add farro. Stirring constantly, toast until farro has darkened a shade and smells nutty and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Fill pot with cold water and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered until farro is tender but chewy, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and and spoon farro into a large salad bowl. Toss warm farro with several tablespoons vinaigrette and set aside.
Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a vigorous boil. While water comes to a boil, set out a strainer and a large bowl filled with ice water. When water is boiling, add 1 teaspoon sea salt. Add peas to boiling water, cook 60 seconds, strain, and immerse strainer with peas in ice water. Drain and set aside.
To assemble salad, toss dressed farro with peas and goat cheese. Drizzle with a few teaspoons vinaigrette and gently toss. Add pea shoots and flowers, and fresh mint, and toss very gently. Finish with a drizzle of vinaigrette and a few twists of pepper.