Sometimes, you see ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily put together. They just don’t seem like they belong, but when you try them! Well, you quickly find out you were wrong. The Roast Cauliflower and Farro Salad here is a perfect example. If first saw this dish when I was working as a prepared foods chef for a national grocery chain. I was handed the recipe one day and told to make as much as I could with two cases of cauliflower.
I was completely unfamiliar with the recipe, so I took a few minutes to study it. My first reaction was I just couldn’t see how these ingredients would make an appetizing salad. As I started making it (trimming lots of cauliflower to start with!), my doubts didn’t subside. It was only when I’d finished the dish and tried it did I figure out I was wrong, very wrong, in the beginning.
The nutty flavor of the farro, with the sweet roasted cauliflower and slightly bitter arugula were a delight together! Add the salty hint from some Parmesan cheese and the brightness of a lemon dressing and it was really quite a delicious salad.
Beyond being delicious, it is easy to make. While the cauliflower is roasting, you can make the farro. Its also a great time to pull together all the other ingredients. Once they are all done, let cauliflower cool a bit, then toss them all together. Dress it right before you serve it to keep the dressing from wilting the greens.
Cooking the cauliflower is pretty straight forward. Preheat your oven to 425F/220C. Trim the head of cauliflower in to bite sized florets. Toss the florets with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder. Arrange florets in an even layer on a sheetpan. Roast in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway through. The cauliflower is done when it is tender and shows some golden brow edges.
While the cauliflower is roasting, you have time for all the other ingredients. Start with the farro, which takes the next longest time. One of the reasons I think this dish works so well is the true versatility of farro. We have used farro before, in our White Bean, Farro and Mushroom Soup. Farro is an ancient grain that has been used in the Mediterranean thousands of years. It is nutritious, healthy, and relatively inexpensive. Most of what you will find prepackaged in modern grocery stores is ‘pearled’ farro. Pearled means that it has part of the bran removed. This makes it quicker cooking, but slightly less flavorful. You can also find whole farro, generally in bulk, in stores that specialize in organic or bulk foods.
Farro works well in a wide variety of dished because it can be cooked so many different ways. You can cook it like rice on a stovetop, letting it absorb the water you cook it in. You can cook it like a risotto, slowing adding water, and allowing the creamy texture to develop. It also cooks well in a rice cooker, instapot, or slow cooker. But for today’s recipe, I’ll be using my preferred method — like pasta in a pot of water on the stovetop. This is best done with the pearled should be easy to find in your grocery store.
Bring a pot of water to a boil on a stove, and add kosher salt, just as you would with pasta. Add the farro, and boil uncovered until al dente, about 20 minutes. Check it to see if it is done to your preferences. When ready, drain in a colander or fine mesh sieve. Then run under cold water to cool for adding to the Roast Cauliflower and Farro salad.
I like arugula for the greens here. It’s the slight peppery and bitter taste is a counterpart to the other flavors happening. But you can certainly use other greens if you prefer. Chard, Tuscan kale, spinach or even mixed greens would be great options.
The same idea goes for the cheese — I like shaved Parmesan for the Roast Cauliflower and Farro salad. The saltiness is a nice complementary flavor. But you could easily substitute feta, ricotta salata, pecorino, or any other salty cheese.
The final touch is the lemony dressing. I’ll be honest, I never really measure anything when I make this dressing — its so simple. Start with the juice from one lemon. Add about 1 1/2 times as much extra virgin olive oil. A pinch each of kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. A couple of drops of honey. Shake it all up. There is your dressing.
Toss it all together. My first reaction to this dish has been proven wrong time and again. Roast Cauliflower and Farro salad is consistently excellent, and a great change of pace salad as we move from Spring to Summer. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
Roast Cauliflower and Farro Salad
- 1 head cauliflower cut into florets
- 1/2 cup farro pearled
- 3 cups arugula
- 1 oz Parmesean Cheese shaved
- 1 lemon juiced
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat Oven to 425F/220C
- Toss cauliflower florets with 1 TBS olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Spread cauliflower on baking sheet
- Roast in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway through. The cauliflower is done when it is tender and shows some golden brow edges
- While cauliflower is cooking, prepare farro
- Bring a pot of with 2 quarts of water to a boil on a stove, and add kosher salt, just as you would with pasta.
- Add the farro, and boil uncovered until al dente, about 20 minutes
- Drain farro in collander, and run cold water over it to cool
- Place arugula in a large bowl
- Add cooked cauliflower, farro, and parmesean shavings
- In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, 2 TBS olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Just before serving, toss roast cauliflower and farro salad with lemon dressing