Summer lunches are a conundrum for me. I've never quite gotten the hang of packing a Mason jar salad, or the kind of build-it-yourself sandwich that both uses the nice fresh produce around thihs time of year and won't turn into a soggy mess in the collective fridge by 1 p.m. Usually, I end up bringing whatever leftovers I had from the day before, and occasionally caving and buying some sushi at the food court under our office building. But then, I remember that salads don't have to be all leafy greens and sliced tomatoes to be a meal. In fact, some of the best summer lunches I've figured out for myself are grain salads, the kind that are as good cold straight from the fridge as they are fresh out of the pan.
Quinoa was my grain of choice for a long time, until I discovered, and totally fell for, farro. If you've never had farro, it's worth seeking out. You cook it in the same way you would pasta, for as long as your particular farro package instructs, and it yields a gorgeous, nutty grain that goes equally well with citrus and olive oil as it does vinegar-y flavors. I've used it as a swap in for pasta when I was feeling pasta-ed out, and found it very delicious with pesto, roasted brussels sprouts and grilled chicken, or tossed with broccoli, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and olive oil. Now that ripe corn and basil are right around the corner, I can't wait to use them in this Farro Salad With Cherries, Corn, and Basil.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
The key to this whole concotion, aside from fresh basil and cherries, is to make sure that you season everything as you're going. Because there are relatively few ingredients, you'll want to taste every component as you're putting it together, to make sure that when it's combined, the whole things doesn't reduce to a pile of blandness. The pickled shallot dressing should go a long way towards bringing you to the flavor you want, but don't be afraid to add more pepper, salt, basil, or cilantro to suit your palate. And honestly, if you had some feta cheese around and wanted to throw that in, I don't think anyone would mind.
This is the kind of salad you can make in advance and let marinate in the fridge for a few days without ill effects. Bring it to work and have a great summer lunch, or bring it as a side too your next picnic or potluck.
Get the recipe for Farro Salad With Cherries, Corn, and Basil.
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