I was brainstorming to come up with a new grain-based salad to prepare for a holiday party recently, when I came across Creative Chilled Farro Salads by Anthony Pierce at Tuscan Fields. One salad that especially caught my eye on that page was Tony’s Strawberry, Golden Pineapple & Coconut Farro Salad. There was no actual recipe given, but I thought I could use it as inspiration for coming up with a tropical-style shrimp and farro salad of my own.
With a little experimenting and taste-testing, I ended up creating a delicious Chilled Farro Salad with Shrimp, Strawberry and Pineapple that was a big hit at the party. The nutty farro grains worked great with the sweet fruit, and the shrimp added a nice bit of high-quality protein to the salad. Read on to learn how to prepare this simple and delicious salad for yourself and also to learn more about farro and why you should be cooking with this ancient grain!
What is Farro?
Farro is an ancient grain product with an esteemed history. Indeed, it is believed to have been a primary ration for the Roman Legion. Farro is the grain of an unhybridized form of wheat known as emmer wheat, but when cooked it has a flavor similar to that of brown rice with nutty overtones and a little “chew” similar to barley or oats. It has a sweetness and lightness that makes it easier to enjoy in many different ways than other heavier whole grains.
Farro has advantages over other grains and rices in some dishes in that, even if you overcook it somewhat, it does not turn gooey and mushy but retains much of it firmness. It also stores well in the refrigerator after cooking, so you can prepare a large batch at one time and enjoy it for several days in salads and side dishes. It also can be cooked like a risotto as it contains a starch similar to that found in Arborio rice, creating that classic risotto creaminess.
Farro is sold in different grades and types depending on the size of the grains and as “Perlato” or “Semi-perlato”. Perlato means it has been polished to remove some of the outer bran husks for faster cooking. When you buy farro, read the cooking instructions on the package for specific information as different varieties and grades require different amounts of cooking time. I get my Farro Semiperlato from A. G. Ferrari in California, and their farro cooks up quickly (12-20 minutes) in boiling water or broth, just like one would cook pasta. Other varieties of farro may require pre-soaking or longer (1-2 hours) cooking time.
Farro is a good grain to enjoy for health and dietary reasons: it is low in fat and calories and higher in fiber than many other grains. It also has a decent amount of protein – moreso than long grain brown rice – although it is slightly higher in carbohydrates.
Chilled Farro Salad with Shrimp, Strawberries and Pineapple
This was a fun recipe to create, with the goal of balancing the sweet flavors of the fruit with the nutty flavor of the farro as well as creating something visually appealing and colorful for a party buffet. Of course if you wished to make the salad vegetarian you could omit the shrimp and perhaps add toasted nuts for more “crunch” and protein.Be sure to follow the cooking instructions on your package of farro and adjust the recipe as needed, if it requires pre-soaking time or longer cooking.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: Approximately 45 minutes
Serves: 12 (or more, depending)
- 1 pound Italian farro, uncooked
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 2 pounds medium-large shrimp, in shell
- 6 scallions
- 1/2 pineapple
- 16 ounces fresh strawberries
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 1 Bay leaf
- 12 peppercorns
- celery salt
Bring a pot of 10 cups water + 1 cup pineapple juice to a boil. Add farro and cook for 10-12 minutes until al dente; drain and set aside to cool.
Fill a separate pot with water seasoned with peppercorns, bay leaf, paprika and celery salt. Bring water to a boil, add shrimp and cook until just done, about 5 minutes. Immediately drain shrimp and chill to stop cooking process.
Meanwhile, prepare dressing. In a food processor combine strawberries, olive oil, lemon juice, cane sugar and rice wine vinegar. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Slice scallions thinly and chop pineapple and strawberries to a medium-sized dice. Combine with cooled farro and sesame seeds in a large bowl.When cool, peel shrimp and add to salad.
Mix in dressing, a little at a time until the salad is coated but not too “wet”. Place salad in refrigerator and keep cold until ready to serve.
Serve with any extra dressing on the side. Enjoy!