Perusing the expo haul at a recent Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference,  I noticed a trend: the Grain-Free label featured prominently on everything from bags of granola to energy bars. It struck me as odd, marketing something as “grain-free”, as if being “free of grains” is the path to health.

Here’s the problem: grains are good for you. Choose slow-release, quality, less processed grains — sorghum, farro, buckwheat, brown rice, whole oats, whole wheat bread, and quinoa — and you’ve got an affordable energy source that delivers protein, fiber, and a host of nutrients. Grains are a foundation of the sort of plant-based diet that almost all nutrition experts agree is a very smart way to eat.Farro and Fig Salad with Arugula and Feta

Now that I’ve spun off into a dietitian diatribe, let me tell you an even better reason to embrace grains: they’re delicious. Let’s start with today’s recipe for Farro & Fig Salad. It’s one I developed last year for the California Fig Board and have been hooked on ever since. The recipe calls for dried figs, which lend a hit of sweetness to balance out the peppery greens and salty feta. If you can’t have gluten in your diet, sorghum would be an excellent substitute. Either way, the dish is pretty simple to make, requiring no more than about 15 minutes of your time to prep and assemble.

I’ve made it for weeknight suppers and also served it to a table full of dinner guests. Nobody seemed to mind that it wasn’t grain-free.

A delicious way to get in your grains: Farro and Fig Salad with Arugula and Feta. #wholegrains Click To Tweet
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Farro & Fig Salad with Arugula and Feta

This salad makes an excellent side dish for roast chicken, pork, or lamb, or is hearty enough to stand on its own as part of a vegetarian meal. If you can't tolerate gluten (which farro has), use sorghum instead. Either way, it's easy to make and delicious to eat. 

Course Main Dish, Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 - 6
Calories 230 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-pearled farro (see notes)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ heaping teaspoon dried turmeric
  • ¾ cup stemmed and chopped dried figs
  • 2 gently packed cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)

Instructions

  1. Put the farro and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat until the water simmers, put on the lid, and cook until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, shallot, mustard, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Add the farro, figs, and arugula and toss well. Crumble the feta over the top and toss again.

  3. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Semi-pearled farro is the most common variety. However, if you stumbled upon whole-grain farro, give it a try (it's even more nutritious). Be sure to read the label for cooking instructions, since they will be different from semi-pearled. 

Farro Salad with Arugula and Feta