Sunday, November 08, 2009

Autumnal Farro Salad with Smokey Roasted Grapes, Walnuts & Mushrooms

picture photograph image smokey farro salad 2009 copyright of sam breach
Last weekend I threw a casual buffet supper for a few 'dead-celebrity' impersonators before we all headed to a Hallowe'en party where being an expired famous person was the raison d'etre. As you all know, celebrities can be a needy bunch and consequently I had to juggle several dietary preferences in a meal where I hoped I could include things that everyone might like. I wanted to make a seasonal salad that would be wholesome and comforting without screaming out "Hey I am a *vegan* salad".

The inspiration came from a fabulous feast we were invited to last Christmas day at the home of some restaurant-owning friends who had built a wood-fired oven in their back yard. One of the the appetizers they sent out was a wonderful smokey dish of roasted grapes and walnuts. So simple, but delicious, it had been playing on my mind ever since a more recent roasted grape salad at Incanto had reminded me of it. Now that grape season is upon us, I wondered if I could riff on that idea a little and create something inspired by the grape and walnut combination in my far-less-glamorous-than-a-wood-fired-oven electric stove.

Turns out that my gut instinct served me well and I knocked up a dish that I was congratulated on from several quarters. It couldn't be much simpler to make, here's how:

Cook up half a pound (or more if you are feeding a larger group), of farro in salted boiling water. I find that using the farro I purchase from Boulette's larder, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes before the grain is perfectly al dente. Use your own taste buds to make that judgment. Drain the farro.

In the meantime, heat the oven to 400F and pop a handful, or two of walnuts into a roasting pan. Toast them in the heated oven until you start to smell their nutty aroma, but before they become too deeply browned. Remove the pan from the oven (using gloves of course) and throw in some seedless grapes (I like the green/blush ones), and small whole mushrooms. I favour a mix of shiitake, tree oysters and maitake (which I tear into smaller pieces). Sprinkle with a scant teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika and a couple of bold pinches of Maldon salt before dousing in a decent glug of olive oil. Using a spatula, fold all the ingredients together until everything is evenly coated and well mixed. Pop back into the oven to roast, for 20 about minutes, stirring once half way through.

Once you can smell the mushrooms, the grapes are just on the verge of starting to shrivel and everything else looks golden brown you can remove the pan from the oven and stir in the strained farro grains. Taste and add more salt as necessary (but be careful doing that whilst those grapes and nuts are still piping hot).

I like to serve this salad warm or at room temperature. I am hoping you might like to too...

aka Audrey Hepburn

Local Resources
Farro from Italy via Boulette's Larder
Grapes from Balakian Farms
Mushrooms from Far West Funghi
Walnuts from Alfieri
Olive Oil from Bariani
Salt from England
Smoked Paprika from Spain

2005 | Has it really been four years? Account of my first meeting with fellow food bloggers in London and Paris.
2004 | Bake Sales for Charity

© 2009 Sam Breach
Autumnal Farro Salad with Smokey Roasted Grapes, Walnuts & Mushrooms