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.)
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.