farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing

Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.

After such a long and lingering winter this year, it feels like this late, coy spring is hurtling into summer faster than I can keep up with.  One moment it was snowing in April, a perpetual winter, a movie on pause, and the next it was everything at once — an 80-degree Memorial Day, violently green foliage everywhere we look, another year’s worth of friends getting illustrious degrees, my brother finishing his freshman year and coming to visit New York for the first time. A wedding venue booked (!), a date set, a trip to Vegas to celebrate some amazing friends.  Our first New York lease on the cusp of expiring, an apartment move next weekend.

With the whirlwind of things that have been happening lately, this past long weekend could not have been more welcome.  There were things to do, but spread out over three days instead of two, it gave us the chance to take a couple much-needed deep breaths, pump the brakes a little, and relax. We took a break from packing to watch Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, which appealed to every sentimental whim of my English major heart; we enjoyed our favorite things about this creaky “has character” apartment in our last weekend before the move, like the green-tinged, dappled sunlight that filters lazily through our vine-covered balcony in the early afternoons. (And the in-apartment washer-dryer. We’ll miss you, world’s oldest and smallest washer and dryer. You may have been highly inefficient, you may have threatened to explode, but you were in our apartment.)

Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.

Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing. Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.

Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.

This farro salad was another part of my attempt to savor our finicky, fleeting spring before the cloying New York summer sits its humid butt over the city.  In a change-up from the rich, comforting foods I’ve been tending towards in this sluggish winter, I decided to go for something a little lighter.  I’ve been brainstorming a good salad to pair with this delicious sesame-miso dressing by Deb at Smitten Kitchen ever since it was introduced to me by a friend at New Year’s.  So I started with asparagus, one of my favorite spring vegetables.  I can’t write enough love words about asparagus, despite its smelly aftereffects.  It takes little to nothing — just some salt and pepper and a touch of oil — to bring out a savory, sultry umami bomb of a vegetable.  Then I paired with a few of my favorite textured foods, toothsome farro and crisp, resilient red cabbage, and finished with a few slices of pink radish for fresh, spring-y bite.  I thought it worked wonderfully.  Best of all, it’s easy as all get out and ready in 30 minutes or less, so there’s little to nothing stopping you from enjoying the spring before it peaces out for good.

Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.
Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.
Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.

Farro & asparagus salad with sesame-miso dressing.


  • for the salad:
  • 1 1/2 cup pearled farro
  • 8-10 medium stalks of asparagus, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
  • for the dressing: (lightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
  • 1 tsp finely minced ginger
  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp sesame paste or tahini (though any nut butter will work)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (to your preferred sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Prepare the farro according to package directions. There are many different kinds (see here for a better explanation) and each will affect the cooking time. Mine was pearled farro, and takes only about 10-15 minutes to cook through -- semi-pearled will take longer and whole grain longest. For pearled farro, combine 1 1/2 cups farro with 3 cups water in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Drain water and fluff with a fork, then set aside to cool.
  2. Dice the asparagus. Heat oil in a wok over high heat until shimmering. Pour in the asparagus, season with salt and pepper to your liking, and saute briefly, about 30 seconds. Add the water and reduce the heat to low, then cover and let steam for 5-10 minutes, or until your desired doneness. You can check after 5 to see how it's going. I usually find 10 minutes to be more than enough, especially when diced into small pieces. Set this aside and let cool.
  3. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. If you don’t have either, just make sure to very finely mince the ginger and garlic, then whisk vigorously until combined.
  4. Finally, toss the dressing with the farro, asparagus, shredded red cabbage, and sliced radish. Serve!


I thought the salad had enough bite from the radish, so I decreased the ginger in Deb's recipe from 1 tbsp to 1 tsp. For a little more liveliness, feel free to use the full amount. I also decreased the olive oil because the dressing was at the consistency I wanted, but again -- feel free to play around with it.



    • tworedbowls says:

      May 28, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m a big fan of farro too — I can’t get enough of chewy grains like it and spelt 🙂 Hope you like it if you try it!

  1. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Ooh, we watched Much Ado About Nothing this weekend also! I loved, LOVED it, though my knowledge of Shakespeare is admittedly very limited. The movie was a break for us, too: though we aren’t moving, we rang in the first year in our coastal apartment with spring cleaning, putting in our garden, and other around the house tasks that had been put off for too long. These are stunning photos of a recipe that has all of my favorite things!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Yay!! Isn’t it a perfect “break” movie? I loved it too — it makes Shakespeare so fun and accessible, and it’s impossible to resist a movie where you can just tell the entire cast is having a blast 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words, Brianne!

  2. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I just adore farro, and this salad looks like a wonderful, way to use it. All that goodness and that dressing! Beautiful post ( as usual 🙂 ) and good luck with your move! Exciting!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      Thank you so much, Sini!!! It’s all good things, so I can’t complain 🙂 but glad to have a moment this week to slow down. Ugh, I so wish you were coming today! It would have been so fantastic to meet you and it won’t be complete without you, dear friend. Hope you’re doing wonderfully <3

  3. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

    If I were in NY, I would have been there to help in a heartbeat 🙂
    Hope all goes well…

    I am not one for healthy dish, but you have me “Farro” 🙂
    Love the photos.
    Have fun with EVERYTHING that is going on in your life… say goodbye properly to “grandma washer” & “grandpa dryer” 🙂

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      You are too sweet, Pang!!! I’m smiling so big 🙂 And yes, baha, I feel the same way about healthy food! It’s why any healthy salad of mine has to have a hearty note in it… like this farro 😉 Glad we think alike <3 Thank you so much for such kind words (and I lol'ed at grandma and grandpa washer-dryer!!!)

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      You’ll LOVE it — it’s just the most charming and downright cute movie I’ve seen in a long time. I didn’t think I’d be able to pick up the Shakespeare dialogue in such a modern setting but they make it so accessible. Hope you get a chance to watch it sometime 🙂

  4. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    omg – I just laughed out loud at your humid butt line – that is so true – it gets soooo humid in the summer. I used to take a shower and then need another one after taking the subway to work. This looks great. I must try it this summer!!

    • tworedbowls says:

      May 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      OMG yes!!!! And my shirts used to get so sticky … I’m dreading it. Still, I’ll take it over winter so I have to remind myself not to complain 😉 Thanks so much, Leah!

  5. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    this salad looks like it would be gorgeous on one of those hot nyc summer nights!

    so many changes going on! YAY for setting the date and booking a venue! SO exciting! hope your move goes smoothly and see you soon!!!


  6. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Your whirlwind activities have exhausted me. I am now resting with a bag of chocolate covered caramel balls. I’d like to say I’ve also whipped up a batch of this fantastic looking salad, but rest, you know?

  7. says:

    May 28, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    This salad and dressing sound perfect! I just added Joss Whedon’s Much Ado to my Netflix queue recently! I’m sure it will do the same to my English major heart 🙂

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 10:24 am

      It’s crazy, right? Then it got cold again…. but now it seems like the heat is here to stay. Haha. Thank you so much, Katrina!

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 10:26 am

      Aw, thanks so much, Michelle! I know, it is pret-ty hard to get me to eat salads too!!! hahah.

  8. says:

    May 29, 2014 at 6:00 am

    I know exactly what you mean about life hurtling past – I seriously can’t believe we’re only a few days away from June (?!). I’m scrambling to make the most of the season before it’s gone. To me, the best way to do that is indulge in all my favourite spring/summer foods and this salad really makes the most of what’s on offer at the moment. That dressing = total love too.

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Literally can’t even handle that it’s June, Kathryn!! Other than the fact that I might get to hang with you in a few weeks 😀 But seriously… where does the time go? (Does it really just pass faster from here on out?) Hope you’re having the time of your life in Sardinia right now!!

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Ooh, I hope you try it! I just love how chewy it is. 🙂 Hope you’re doing wonderfully, Erika!

  9. says:

    May 29, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Oh. Oh. Oh. Squeals of excitement. Farro – my favourite. Asaparagus – another favourite. I’m fickle – have lots of favourites. Red cabbage – not something that I would have though to toss into the salad, but now that you’re saying it can feel myself craving it. Gorgeous.
    Also, I know that I’ve said this before…and I’m like a broken disk…but you write so prettily – ‘movie on pause’ – what a lovely turn of phrase to describe never ending winter… Lovely post, Cynthia!
    PS Great news on wedding venue booking – yay! 🙂

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Hahaha I have SO many favorites! I get teased that every other thing is “my favorite thing ever.” Hey, we just love generously, right? And aw, thank you so much for such kind words. You motivate me to write better each time 🙂 something I really need! Hope you’re doing wonderfully, Skye!

  10. says:

    May 29, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I’m not a fan of salad but your photos and beautiful writing are making me crave this right.now. That dressing helps – it sounds freaking delicious! You’ve got a ton on your plate right now! Enjoy your Vegas trip, you deserve it, YAY for booking your wedding venue, and I hope the move goes quickly ‘n smoothly.

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 11:07 am

      SO not a fan of salad either, hahah! This was a concerted effort on my part to put something a little healthier (key word being “little”) on the table. 😉 Thank you so much for all your kind words, Nancy — you are seriously the best.

  11. says:

    May 30, 2014 at 7:26 am

    My husband released an audible sigh on his return home from work tonight. It’s a long weekend for us here and we’ll be taking a much needed breather and doing little of nothing.
    I’ve not tried farro before but am ever so slightly obsessed with miso at the moment and adore asparagus so will be bookmarking this recipe for spring.

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Ooh, your comment makes me think a miso-glazed asparagus would be really delicious. Now I’m dreaming about that instead! I hope you two had a really relaxing weekend last week 🙂

  12. says:

    June 1, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Oh my goodness, these photographs! You have absolutely outdone yourself, my dear and talented friend! I can’t even. And your recent schedule absolutely exhausts me but sounds like the best kind of whirlwind goodness. To be a fly on the wall in Vegas! 😉

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 7, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Dude, I wish we could have met! At some point it’s gotta happen. Thank you so much for the sweet words, Em 🙂

  13. says:

    June 2, 2014 at 2:15 am

    I love reading your daily life updates, especially when you throw in the humour. This warm season is going to go by so quickly! I’m trying to think of ways to slow down but I haven’t found any yet. I think I’m going to mix this salad up for lunch tomorrow. I mean, I only have almost ALL the ingredients. Thanks for sharing. It takes the whole of the Internet to find some of Deb’s gems and you did so perfectly.

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 8, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Such kind words, Edlyn!! I know — once you find a way to pause summer, let me know ASAP. Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂 and I was so excited to see on IG that you tried this salad! Deb’s recipes = always a winner.

  14. says:

    June 2, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Lovely! Lovely! I always long for a fancy camera after visiting.
    I was an English major (with a double in Shakespearean lit.). Now I’m a food blogger; what lucrative passions! 😀

    You write beautifully…I should have known. xo

    • tworedbowls says:

      June 8, 2014 at 12:53 am

      Ha!! Nothing spells making bank like our English degrees (I mean, you DO have the B and the A … Ba dum chh.) Thank you for such kind words! If I had your talent, I wouldn’t need a fancy camera 😉

  15. says:

    June 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    This looks deeeelicious!! Yum! I think perfect for a summer salad! And gorgeous photography! I love the way you celebrate all the beautiful ingredients by capturing them perfectly. Oh, and I’ll miss your in-unit washer dryer too! I just know how amazing that must have been! boooo! But hope you’re loving the new place none the less!! xo

  16. says:

    June 8, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Cynthia this looks so beyond delicious! I’ve been on the hunt for delicious and somewhat healthy salads and this looks perfect! 🙂 I’m in love with your photos as always! Hope you have a wonderful week!

  17. says:

    June 10, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Cynthia, you are KILLING it in the photography department!! Like, I just want to jump in with those vibrant green asparagus..es…asparagi? into that lovely large plate of farro. Sesame miso dressing?!?! You are calling.my.name. Just a brilliant combination of flavors, lady! And your busy life sounds so fun!

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