I’ve been hoping to make some more hearty salads lately. They’re just right for simple suppers in the heat of summer and I love to take them to work for lunch. I finally got around to cooking up a small, very nice bag of farro I’ve had in the cupboard for a while, and I finally got around to cooking up the white beans stored next to that. What pushed me past that procrastination, however, was the purchase of a lovely little fennel bulb at the local farmer’s market. The bulb was smallish, but it was so fresh that the heavier parts of the stalks were also quite nice. It also had a beautiful head of lush green hair that hung out of my market bag as I shopped. Pity I didn’t get a photo.
Anyway, this is similar to other bean and grain salads I’ve made, and just as good, too. The flavor is very fennel forward, but it’s underlined by the nuttiness of the farro (gentle) and walnuts (a little nuttier). The vinaigrette dressing it pretty standard and you could substitute the walnut oil with another nut oil or olive oil, but I quite liked it here (especially since I also included the walnuts). You could also substitute the cider vinegar with another vinegar or with citrus juice. Again, I liked the cider vinegar.
This salad is also an interesting play of textures. The farro is chewy and a little starchy. The beans are creamy and mild. The fennel is crunchy, but not overly so. The interspersed walnuts also have a pleasant crunch. Very nice, I must say. And if you cannot find (or don’t care for) fennel, don’t let that keep you from experimenting with some version of this hearty, nutritious salad.
Farro and White Bean Salad with Fennel and Walnuts
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 cups cooked farro
1 ½ cups (about 1 16-ounce can) cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-size fennel bulb and firm stalks, sliced
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
a few grinds of black pepper
¼ cup walnut oil
1. Toast the walnuts in a dry saute pan over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine the farro, beans, and fennel in a medium size bowl. Toss to combine.
3. In a small bowl, combine the cider vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk together to combine well. Whisk in the walnut oil until the mixture is smooth. Pour over the farro mixture and toss to coat. Stir in the toasted walnuts.
Makes 6-8 servings. Leftovers last for several days in the refrigerator.