As we move towards the holiday season, it can be challenging trying to cook for a “mixed-eater household” or, if you are a vegetarian/vegan, visiting family and friends when “traditional” holiday meals are being served. In a household with a mix of meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans, the Farro, Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad can make either a hearty lunch or a tasty and satisfying side dish that everyone can enjoy.
This recipe can be made ahead of time and the chewy, nutty flavour of farro, tart cranberries, chilli roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas all topped with a tangy lemon tahini dressing makes for such an interesting combination of textures and flavours. Last but not least, the lovely colours of the ingredients will make it a feast for the eyes on any holiday table!
What is farro?
Farro is a tasty and nutritious ancient grain and similar to barley, farro comes pearled or semi-pearled. The main difference is that the semi-pearled version includes more fiber and nutrient-rich bran than the pearled version.
The grain is sold dried and cooked in water or broth and can be added to soups, salads, stews and risotto-style dishes. It can be treated like pasta and can serve as a great alternative to rice.
Origins of farro
This ancient whole wheat grain has a long and interesting history. It was originally domesticated over 10,000 years ago and was thought to have been enjoyed by the Pharaohs in Egypt as well as fed to Roman armies.
While it has been a staple in Europe for centuries, it is now becoming more popular in North America due to a renewed interest in ancient grains, the fact that it can be a source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, and also because it is a fairly economical and nutritious food.
Nutritional information and health benefits of farro
Farro is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals including iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Eating whole grains like farro can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline. Also, this grain can help reduce bloating by counter-balancing salt as well as improve the immune-protecting bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract as discussed in the “Clever Guts“.
The first time I used farro, I followed the recipe in Making Thyme for Health and used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Farro. As it is a type of wheat, farro is not suitable for gluten-free diets although, since it is an ancient grain, those who suffer from gluten sensitivities may be able to tolerate it better than modern wheat.
- 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 cups)
- 1 cup Farro, rinsed
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
- 2 cups finely chopped kale
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsps chili powder
- 1/4 cup parsley for garnish
Lemon Tahini Dressing
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 3-4 tbsp water
- salt to taste
Here are some more options for lemon tahini dressings including an oil-free or curry version.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat then set aside.
Chop sweet potato into bite-sized pieces and coat evenly with 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tsp chili powder. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or just until soft. Reserve the bowl with remaining oil and spices.
In a pan, warm 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the rinsed farro and stir, allowing it to toast for about 1 minute. Pour in 3 cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 25-35 minutes (until most of liquid is absorbed) then remove from heat, cover with a lid and let steam for 10 minutes. Remove lid and allow to cool.
In the same bowl used for the sweet potatoes, add the chickpeas and 1/2 tsp chili powder then stir until lightly coated. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Add the kale to the bowl that the chickpeas were in along with a sprinkle of salt and gently massage for about 15 seconds.
Meanwhile, make the lemon tahini dressing by combining everything together in a measuring cup and whisking until smooth. Add more water as needed to thin and add salt to taste.
Once cooked and cooled, add the chickpeas to a serving bowl with the sweet potatoes, kale and farro. Top with cranberries and parsley then mix to combine. Serve with dressing and enjoy!
As this salad is best served immediately after the dressing is added, if preparing in advance, it usually works best to serve the dressing on the side.
I am so glad I discovered farro and I would definitely recommend it as a staple for your pantry. It is such a versatile grain and with its high protein content, I have found it a useful addition to plant-based cooking. A dish like this is a great way to ensure that you eat a rainbow and I am looking forward to exploring more dishes using farro.