New Year’s Resolutions Check-In– Go with the Grain! Part 1: Farro Salad

farro salad

As we approach the second month of 2014, I thought I’d check in– how are those healthy eating resolutions going? Every year, millions of us go through the same ritual– good intentions to make big changes for the first few weeks, then gradually, those big changes fall to the wayside as we go back to our old habits.  That’s why I don’t like “diets.”  Any eating plan that is so tremendously different from how we usually eat, very restrictive or specific (the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet) is bound to fail.  Because who wants to eat like that for the rest of their lives?

It’s not that I’m against change.  But it is change that is gradual (baby steps), flexible (for taste preferences and lifestyle) and sustainable (no unusual techniques or hard to source ingredients).  I call it simply “healthy eating.”

As part of this, I have been giving occasional cooking classes and demonstrations for the community.  The first one of 2014 was on whole grains.  When coming up with titles for my talk and class, I had some trouble coming up with titles that would be enticing. Someone  gave the suggestion of calling it “the original master cleanse”– which might be accurate– but I was afraid that would bring up unsavory images. Other ideas were just plain boring.  A lot of people think of bland flavors, either mushy or cardboard-like textures, and gruel when thinking of whole grains.   But  there is a whole world out there! The more than a dozen whole grains that are available in the owrld and likely in your grocer’s bulk bins offer a wide variety of textures, flavors and nutritional profiles.  Before I get into how good they are for you (knowing that something is good for you can sometimes be a turnoff), let me tell you the real reason why you should eating more and a wider vairety of whole grains– they taste great!  That’s why I ended up calling my event “Go with the Grain.”

Briefly, if you ware wondering why whole grains do a body good, here’s a little summary.  Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain seed: the bran, endosperm, and germ, while refined or processed grains contain only the starchy endosperm.  All the good stuff– fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, magnesium, iron and protein– is left out.  So if you’re going to eat grains or carbohydrates, you might as well get a nutritional kick out of it.  The benefits of doing so include weight maintenance and weight loss, better control of blood sugar and diabetes, reduced cardiovascular disease and reduced incidence of gastrointestinal cancers.  That’s a lot of benefit, in my opinion.

But getting back to my original mission, to convince you to eat whole grains, I’ll be presenting a series of some of the recipes I presented at my recent cooking demonstration.  To start, my favorite new-to-me whole grain: farro.  This ancient form of wheat has origins in Italy and is still a prized ingredient in its whole form as well as ground into flour for excellent pasta.  In this recipe, I am using it to make a lemony, herby grain salad.  Bon appétit and a votre santé (to your health)!

Farro Salad With Lemon, Avocado And Pistachios

This recipe is adapted from Laura B. Weiss on NPR, who adapted it from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy (Ten Speed Press, 2013). Madison’s original recipe called for quinoa.

Makes 6 servings


2 heaping cups of cooked farro

1 cup of kale, chopped

1 cup of baby spinach, chopped

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup basil, chopped

1 heaping tablespoon chives, finely sliced

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup crumbled feta, ricotta salata or smoked ricotta (leave this out to make this a vegan recipe)

1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped


1.  Toss the farro with the kale and spinach, using your fingers to distribute the greens through the grains.

2.  To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, oil, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper.

3.  Pour it over the farro and greens, add the basil and chives, and toss gently to coat the greens and grains.

4.  Spoon the grains and greens mixture onto a platter. Lay the slices of avocado over the salad, and sprinkle the feta and pistachios over the top and serve. If not serving immediately, refrigerate the salad but let it come to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition Info: Cal 358, Fat 24g, Sodium 82mg, Protein 6g, Sugar 1g


For an excellent resource on whole grains and a recipe collection, visit

The January issue of Bon Appetit also has some lovely whole grains recipes.

Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals is a beautiful cookbook that is a treasure trove of recipes on a wide variety of whole grains.

And I’ll be back next week with another whole grains recipe from my class– stay tuned!

If you enjoyed this post, please share with others and/or leave a comment.  And I would love to hear about your favorite whole grain and how you like to prepare it.  Feel free to leave a link to a recipe.  Thanks for coming by!

2 responses

    • Thanks, Suzanne! I’m fresh from giving my class, so the words flowed easily. I really enjoyed trying various whole grains preparing for my class and am looking forward to trying some others I haven’t yet– amaranth and sorghum, for example. What have you used?

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