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Farro and asparagus make a hearty salad

Katie Workman
Associated Press

Farro is a hearty whole grain that may well become a staple in your kitchen, in everything from soups and casseroles to sides and salads.

Once a mainstay of the ancient Roman diet, farro is high in fiber and a good source of iron and protein, which also makes it a great anchor for numerous vegetarian dishes. Try using it in recipes that you might ordinarily reach for barley or brown rice.

Fresh herbs and other leafy greens in whole grain salads balance out the heft of the grains and also provide a lovely pop of color and freshness. And I make these kinds of salads continuously during the warmer months, since they keep well, and having a whole grain salad in the fridge means you never have to wonder what to make for lunch on those days when you’re feeling unimaginative. Don’t be shy with the salt and pepper — the seasonings really lift the flavor.

Finally, raw asparagus may seem surprising, but if the asparagus is very fresh, it adds a wonderful delicate asparagus flavor and a nice crunch. If the outer peel is thick, peel the bottom half of the stalks before thinly slicing them, or the texture will be too tough.

Farro and Vegetable Salad

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups farro

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup minced shallots

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes

2 cups roughly chopped watercress

2 cups thinly sliced raw asparagus, peeled if necessary

1 cup thinly sliced radishes

Combine the broth, farro, and salt in a saucepan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until al dente. Drain the farro if there is excess broth remaining, rinse with cool water, and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk together the oil, vinegar, shallots, lemon juice, and parsley in a small bowl and season salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes, watercress, asparagus and radishes to the farro. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve chilled. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 285 calories; 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 31 percent calories from fat); 41 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 214 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 8 g fiber.