Picnics encourage us to slow down and savor. Given the choice between a fancy table and a simple meal on a blanket, I’ll choose the outdoors every time. Consider pairing this month’s winning recipe, Delicious Fried Chicken, with a nourishing grain salad like this one from chef Laurie Williamson, who co-owns Rancho Loma with husband Robert. At their boutique inn and restaurant near Coleman, the busy couple planted a vineyard and launched their own label, RLV Wine. If you visit the tasting room in downtown Coleman to sample their luscious varietals, ask which one pairs best with your picnic basket.
Farro Picnic Salad
Williamson loves to make this hearty salad year-round and varies ingredients accordingly. “Farro is super healthy, an excellent source of protein, fiber and iron,” she says. “For even more protein, you can add rotisserie chicken.” Feel free to add fresh green peas and arugula, or halved cherry tomatoes and basil.
1 cup farro
2 cups water, lightly salted
1/8 cup olive oil
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 can (16 ounces) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped parsley or mint
Thinly sliced radishes, as desired
1. Combine the farro with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer up to 40 minutes, until grains are tender with a slightly chewy texture. Drain any excess water.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the warm farro with olive oil and lemon juice and zest, and then season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
3. Add the feta, black-eyed peas, parsley or mint, and radishes, and toss to combine. This salad will keep refrigerated up to three days.
Farro is an ancient grain with a chewy texture and nutty flavor. Look for the “semi-pearled” variety; this means some of the bran has been removed, so it will cook more quickly. Grains such as farro, barley and quinoa become more flavorful and maintain their texture when prepared in advance.