There are a few steps but so with it. This is a delicious dinner.
Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion and Toasted Walnuts
Serves 4 to 6
For the farro:
3 cups water
1 1/2 cup semi-pearled farro, or about 3 cups cooked farro
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chile pepper, optional
1 – 2 teaspoons minced hot green chile such as serrano, optional
1 diced Aleppo pepper if you can find them. They are from Syria but check on line at refining fire chilies.
This pepper is sweet but also has background heat. It’s not a mild pepper.
1/2 teaspoon dried mint, preferably spearmint, optional
For the salad:
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced (less than 1/4 inch)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup loosely packed torn fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.
To prepare the farro, add the water, farro, bay leaf, and dried chile to a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil.
Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the grain is tender with a slight chew, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and chile, drain if needed, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the minced chile,
Aleppo pepper, and dried mint and toss to combine.
Meanwhile, to make the salad, place the eggplant and the onion on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, and combine well, using your hands.
If you don’t mind the extra dish, it’s a bit easier to toss everything in a large bowl.
Roast the mixture until the eggplant pieces have softened and are browned in spots, and the onion slices have caramelized, turning them once with a spatula in between, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately sprinkle the vegetables with 1/4 cup of the fresh mint and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the vinegar.
Toss well with a spatula — this will soften the mint leaves and take the sting out of the vinegar.
To finish, add the warm eggplant mixture to the farro. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar and toss to combine. Season with salt and vinegar to taste. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup mint and the pine nuts and serve.
Make it ahead: The vegetables can be roasted one day in advance:
The farro can be cooked a couple days earlier.
Refrigerate in separate containers; and just bring to room temperature before serving, about one hour.
You can prepare the salad without adding the remaining 1/4 cup mint and the walnuts up to four hours ahead. Refrigerate, covered; remove about one hour ahead to bring to room temperature before serving.
Drizzle on a bit more olive oil and vinegar to refresh if needed, then finish with mint and walnuts.