Two and a half years ago, Paul and I flew to London, rented a car and drove around Wales for about a week, during which we somehow got into the habit of pausing each afternoon for scones with jam and clotted cream.
By the end of the trip we could hardly fit into our clothes.
But before we started in on all the scones Wales had to offer, we stopped to pick up lunch from Yotam Ottolenghi’s eponymously-named take out joint in Notting Hill.
This was one of those food excursions that I had been looking forward to for months and which Paul had been not-so-secretly hoping I would forget about so that we could head on our way without a detour.
But I didn’t forget, and after a minor parking fiasco we ended up at the tiny counter, picking out an array of colorful salads and other treats, both sweet and savory, which we savored at a nondescript rest stop somewhere along the way.
Ottolenghi really knows how to elevate vegetables to star status.
That meal was one of the culinary highlights — for me anyway, Paul was too irked over the parking to really appreciate it — of a trip that saddled us both with more extra pounds than we care to admit.
This grain salad comes from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty. At first blush, it doesn’t sound that exciting: grains, roasted peppers, feta, black olives. All good things but perhaps a little ho-hum.
It’s the dressing, full of vibrant and intriguing flavors like smoked paprika, allspice and honey, that really catapults it into another category.
This is a dish that is easy to make ahead and maybe even better that way. It works warm, cold or at room temperature, is good anytime of year, and is equally at home at special occasions and backyard picnics.
And the bonus: there’s no waiting in line and no hunting for parking spaces. That should make everyone happy.
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.
Sometimes I add some garbanzo beans to give this salad a little protein and make it more of a meal. Otherwise, I follow the recipe more or less by the book.
I only ever seem to come across pearled farro, which takes about 20 minutes to cook. Whole (unpearled) farro takes longer to cook but is also more nutritious. Either kind will work here, just follow the cooking directions on the package. When finished cooking farro should be tender but still retain a slight bite.
- Juice of one medium lemon
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus extra to garnish
- 1/2 garlic clove, crushed and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup farro
- 2 roasted red bell peppers or 4 or 5 smaller roasted piquillo peppers, diced
- 1 cup cooked and drained garbanzo beans (optional, canned is fine)
- 10 pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthways
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or picked thyme leaves
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
- 4 ounces of feta, crumbled or diced into tiny cubes
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the farro and cook according to package directions. Drain.
To the bowl with the dressing add the cooked farro, diced bell peppers, garbanzo beans (if using), olives, herbs, scallions and feta. Gently mix everything together. Taste and add more salt if needed. Sprinkle with a little extra paprika before serving.