Most people count Memorial Day as the Official Start of Summer, but for me it’s less about the passing of a specific date and more about a certain feeling that starts to take over both myself and everyone around me. At least in the cities I’ve lived in, as soon as warm weather hits and seems like it’s here to stay, the change in mood is almost palpable. It’s like we’ve been released from the winter freeze, and man does it feel good. Restaurants with outdoor seating become packed (even on weeknights!), Central Park is alive again with bicyclists, runners, and walkers, people slow down and just look generally happy – it’s a good feeling.
And then, of course, there’s the food aspect of it. Just like it wouldn’t feel like fall without pumpkin or spring without asparagus, I refuse to even entertain the idea of summer until I’ve had my first caprese salad. There’s something about the simple, yet undeniably perfect combination of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella that embodies the spirit of summer with its fresh, clean flavors.
I’ve eaten caprese salad on its own for dinner on more occasions than I care to admit, mostly due to a lack of self control on my part, but every summer I try to come up with a new way to incorporate it into a main meal. This year, I’ve been really into farro as a base for grain salads. I just love its nutty flavor and chewy texture, and the fact that it takes only 15 minutes to cook is an added bonus (a rarity in the world of whole grains!). Obviously I couldn’t resist combining the two, resulting in this delicious farro caprese salad!
This salad is a cinch to make, combining farro with cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella balls, making it perfect for those days when you don’t want to spend too much time in front of the stove. Topped with a basil vinaigrette that comes together in the food processor in minutes and a toasted pine nut garnish, it is a true 30 minute meal and the kind that you’ll want to keep in your fridge for random caprese cravings all summer long.
A summery grain salad that's perfect for work lunches and picnics.
- 2 cups farro
- 4 cups water
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 10 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls, quartered
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup basil leaves, packed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- In a medium pot, combine the farro and the water with a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 13-15 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the farro is tender. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, toss together the cooked farro with the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.
- To make the dressing, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic and basil. Pulse until minced, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the olive oil, parmesan cheese, champagne vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Pulse again until combined and smooth. Season to taste with salt.
- Toss the dressing with the farro salad. Serve topped with toasted pine nuts.
If you can't find the small fresh mozzarella balls (sometimes called bocconcini or ciliegine) you can always use a large fresh mozzarella ball and cut it into smaller chunks.