Summer Garden Salad with Farro
As most epic love stories begin . . . it was college spring break. Mexico. Circa mid-1990s. Playa del Carmen was actually a quiet fishing village. The roads were paved in dirt and the electricity was spotty at best. Days were spent swimming with turtles and relaxing on the beach. Life was simple and ideal, if only you wouldn’t rather starve than eat lettuce on your tacos. Produce was tourist roulette, and ice cubes were vacation suicide. And despite the culinary odds, a love affair with Mexico was born.
In the early days of my long-distance relationship, geographically desirable Baja was synonymous with surf trips. Two decades later, with chefs flocking to Mexico for a reboot and an ideal growing season, farm-to-table dining and year-round farmers market, quality tomatoes are as alluring as the beach. The food I now associate with Mexico isn’t necessarily traditionally Mexican. It is all grown in the gardens of places like Flora Farms and Rancho Pescadero, but how it comes together on the plate is open for interpretation. At Flora Farms, bloody marys are garnished with a veritable salad. At Hierbabuena, across the peninsula in Pescadero, the menu ranges from chile relleno’s to ravioli. All sourced within eyeshot of where they are served.
The local sentiment also holds true in Tulum, where the lengths are so great to source acutely local that it feels slightly masochistic, if not extremely altruistic to do so. Listening to the rundown of how Hartwood restaurant procures produce drives home the purist desire for a back-to-the-basics approach that feels like the culinary equivalent of going off the grid. No electricity, no refrigeration. Just three ice deliveries a day and chest coolers.
My go-to summer salad employs this ethos: taking the flavors of Mexico, with the liberty of combining them how I like. More of a framework than a literal recipe, it is relaxed about quantities. If you would like a lighter salad, add another handful of greens. If you want to make it heartier, add some garbanzo beans. It’s all open to interpretation.
FOR THE SALAD
2 cups pearled farro, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium cucumber, diced
3 ears corn, shucked
3 poblano chiles
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful cilantro
2 handfuls arugula
8 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
FOR THE DRESSING
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
6 tablespoons lime juice (about 6 limes)
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ small red onion, slivered
In a medium saucepan, combine 5 cups water, farro and salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Farro should have a firm bite. Drain, if needed, and spread on a sheet pan to cool.
Make the salad dressing in a small bowl. Combine the jalapeño, lime juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the slivered onions to marinate.
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the corn and poblanos. Grill the corn for about 5 minutes, or until charred in spots but still fresh looking. Shave the corn off the cob. Grill the poblanos until charred and soft, about 10 minutes. Peel, seed and dice.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the faro with the corn, cucumber, poblanos, and tomatoes and toss with enough dressing to lightly coat. Add the cilantro, arugula and cheese, and add additional dressing if needed. (You may have extra.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on a large platter or in a serving bowl.
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Summer Garden Salad with Farro was published in the Summer 2016 issue. © 2016 Edible San Francisco. Photo © 2016 Kathleen Korb.