Too often, when we think of grilling, we think of thick steaks, sticky ribs, and hotdogs. If vegetables enter in to the picture, they are found on skewers framing chunks of marinated beef or chicken. They are an afterthought, a why-don’t-you-throw-this-on-at-the-same-time-as-that item, instead of the star of the show. Yet vegetables, seasoned perfectly before being kissed by the heat of a grill, are some of the most delicious foods that you can pull of your grates and certainly the most beautiful.
Brussels sprouts to asparagus benefit from a little char and vegetables cooked on the grill retain a crispness that those boiled, steamed or sautéed on the stove top lack. Grilled vegetable platters are ubiquitous at catered events for a reason. Assorted grilled vegetables, glistening with olive oil and striped with grill marks, make a beautiful presentation when arranged decoratively on a platter. That they may be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature are extra points in their favor.
This recipe combines grilled vegetables with Farro and a basil-parmesan dressing. I think it shines the most when the vegetables are grilled, chopped, and then immediately tossed with the Farro and dressing to make a delicious, still warm, salad. However, this recipe makes a worthy second act for grilled vegetables leftover from a meal the night before. With that being said, while certainly edible chilled, I think this salad tastes best when served warm or at room temperature so be sure to let all the ingredients warm up a bit before serving.
It’s habitual to cut the vegetables into small rounds or tiny strips before grilling. Resist the urge. Limit the amount of time it takes to grill the squash and zucchini by cutting 1/2-inch thick wedges instead of multiple rounds. The red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, benefits from being thrown on the grill in its entirety. Efficiency aside, one only needs to experience the frustration of having small vegetables slip through the grill grates, irretrievable by tongs, to remember to cut bigger slices in the future.
I would be content to eat this salad on its own, but for those that insist on adding a meat a grilled chicken breast would be a nice choice. Serve the chicken atop the salad or cut it into thin strips and toss it with the rest of the ingredients. For those that lean more towards the sea than the land, grilled shrimp would be another delicious accompaniment.
And last but not least, the basil-parmesan dressing is a bit unusual in its appearance. The basil leaves don’t need to be finally pureed and the final result shouldn’t resemble a pesto. Simply add all the ingredients to a small food processor or blender and pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until the ingredients come together and the consistency is thick. Happy cooking!
Grilled Vegetable and Farro Salad - Grilled Vegetable and Farro Salad
An actual grill, be it charcoal or gas, works best for grilling vegetables. However if it’s raining or hot (as it was around noon on the day I was testing this recipe) a grill pan is a fine substitute for the real thing.
1 cup Italian pearled farro, rinsed
4 cups water
1 red bell pepper, stem, seeds, and veins removed, left in large pieces
1 large zucchini, cut into ½-inch wedges
1 large yellow summer squash, cut into ½-inch wedges
1 medium red onion, cut crosswise into ½-inch thick rings
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 packed cup of roughly torn fresh basil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced
Juice from 1 lemon
Add the water to a medium saucepan and salt it generously. Bring the water to a boil. Add the farro and reduce the heat to a strong simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the farro in a strainer.
Meanwhile, heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Toss the red bell pepper, zucchini, yellow summer squash, and red onion in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the vegetables to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Working in batches as needed, grill the vegetables until just tender. Remove the grilled vegetables from the grill and set aside to cool. Once cool, roughly chop the vegetables and add them to a large serving bowl with the drained farro and toss to combine.
Combine the basil, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a blender or small food processor. Pulse until thick and paste-like. The mixture does not have to be completely pureed like a pesto, but all the ingredients should be incorporated and the mixture should resemble a thick dressing. Pour the basil-oil over the farro and grilled vegetables and toss to combine. Add lemon juice to taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.