By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
Farro salads have a lot going on in the texture department. Unlike their softer sisters — quinoa, couscous and rice — farro has a hearty, starchy chewiness that’s satisfying even before you start tossing in piles of diced vegetables, dried fruit and toasted nuts.
But just because farro salad doesn’t need textural help doesn’t mean it won’t like it. And it turns out, when you introduce crispy roasted chickpeas to nubby farro, they get along brilliantly, amiably competing — crunch versus chew — and doing so in the tastiest way.
Whenever I make crispy chickpeas, I tend to prefer the ease of roasting to the oily splatter of deep-frying, even in summer. However, if I am going to turn the oven on in August, it has to do double duty. So while the spiced chickpeas are sizzling away on one oven rack, I stick a pan of corn kernels on another rack, roasting them until they turn lightly golden, their juices condensing and getting even sweeter in the blasting heat.
Since it’s corn season, you might as well try to use fresh corn kernels sliced off the cob, which have the best flavor. But if you can’t get fresh corn, frozen kernels work nearly as well. This means you can also make this recipe in autumn or winter, when turning on the oven is a delight and not a trial. Just avoid canned corn, which is too mushy here.
If you’re looking to work ahead a little, cook the farro earlier in the day or even a day or two before. Mix it with olive oil and cider vinegar, and season it with salt and coriander right after draining, while it’s still very warm. That way, it can fully absorb all of the dressing’s tangy flavors. (No need to refrigerate if you’re serving it the same day, but if you’re working a day or two in advance, refrigerate it and let it come to room temperature.) Taste it right before serving, adding salt and vinegar as needed. Grain salads have a way of getting slightly dull and muted as they sit.
You can mix the vegetables — the roasted corn, slivered fennel and scallions — into the farro ahead of time, too.
Wait to add the crispy chickpeas until just before serving. Otherwise, they could yield some of their crunch, giving farro the edge in the competition. But then again, in this kind of salad bowl, there are no losers.
Recipe: Farro Salad With Corn and Crispy Chickpeas
Yield: 6 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
For the Crispy Chickpeas:
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or use 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch of ground allspice
- Pinch of ground cayenne
For the Salad:
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for boiling the farro
- 1 cup pearled or semi-pearled farro
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels, from about 3 ears corn, or use frozen corn
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel
- 1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, mint and/or basil
- Flaky sea salt, for serving
1. Start the chickpeas: Spread drained chickpeas on a rimmed sheet pan lined with a clean dish towel or a double layer of paper towels. Let air-dry for at least 30 minutes while you cook the farro.
2. Prepare the farro: Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add farro and bay leaf. Cook until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well, discarding bay leaf. Put farro in a bowl and, while still warm, stir in 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and the coriander. Let farro cool to room temperature.
3. Heat oven to 425 degrees. While the farro cools, roast the crispy chickpeas and the corn in the same oven.
4. For the chickpeas, remove towels from the baking sheet and toss chickpeas with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and spices until well coated. Roast, tossing halfway through, until golden and crispy, about 25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.
5. In a mixing bowl, lightly drizzle kernels with remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Spread corn in a single even layer on a rimmed sheet pan. Roast, tossing halfway through roasting, until golden brown and fragrant, about 20 minutes.
6. Add corn to farro mixture, along with the scallions, fennel and herbs, tossing to combine. Taste, and add more salt and/or vinegar if needed. Just before serving, fold in crispy chickpeas so they remain crunchy. Top with another drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt.