This salad was inspired by one of my favourite salads of all time. I know, that’s quite a statement. The said salad is served at Rasa, a restaurant here in Toronto. I’ve you’ve been to Rasa, you certainly know what I’m talking about. It’s one of their signature dishes. Its quite humble name, “The Chopped Salad”, doesn’t reveal the remarkable complexity and nuances of flavours that awaits you on your first bite. It’s full of freshness, loaded with crunchy vegetables, and bursting with so many textures and tastes. It’s so good you won’t believe you’re actually eating a salad.
I am by no means claiming that my salad here is as good as the Rasa version, but it’s my humble simplified, weeknight dinner interpretation. The original one has quinoa, but I went for farro here for a chewier bite. Theirs has feta (which I believe is whipped with jalapeño pepper). I omitted the cheese here to make it dairy-free, but also for the sake of simplifying. The crispiness of their chickpeas makes me think they are most probably deep fried, which of course I’m not going to do here. I’m instead tossing them with a bit of oil, chili powder and smoked paprika before baking them in the oven until they become golden and crispy.
Each bite is festive: chewy grain, juicy tomatoes, crunchy red pepper and cucumber, fresh summer herbs from the garden and bursts of sweet red grapes throughout. The baked chickpeas are the cherry on top of the sundae. Crunchy, spicy, delicious. For the dressing, I went for a sweet and tangy vinaigrette made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a bit of lemon juice, a touch of honey and sumac powder.
This salad would make a lovely contribution to a picnic or summer gathering and will hold well for a few hours. If you are planning on enjoying it later, I would suggest that you omit the romaine lettuce (cause who likes soggy lettuce?). It will be just as good. It’s my new favourite summer salad and I hope it will become yours too!
The lovely folks over at Grain graciously sent be a couple boxes of their amazing products (grains, lentils, chickpeas) and I used their farro here for this recipe. I am over the moon in love with what these guys do. Their canadian-grown dry goods are packaged in the cutest little boxes. Each box has the face of the farmer on it, so you know exactly where the food was grown and who’s behind it. You can then head to their site to learn more about the farmer.
So many of us have lost connection to the food we eat. We have no clue the conditions in which it was grown or we’re it’s coming from. In this era where everything is available pre-packaged and is shipped across the planet before reaching out plate, it’s refreshing and inspiring to see companies like Grain popping up and working to redefine the way we eat. I think their mission and efforts are truly admirable. Their products are currently only available in Western Canada, but they should become available in the East very soon, so keep your eye out! (This post is not sponsored, I just truly love them!)
If you’re not familiar with farro, it is similar in texture to spelt or wheat berries. It has a deliciously nutty taste and a lovely bite. It’s really high in fibre and protein and will make any salad so much more interesting and satisfying.
A few notes: If you can, I recommend soaking farro a few hours or overnight to optimize digestibility and reduce cooking time. I like to remove the skins from the chickpeas to improve digestion and make sure they get as crispy as possible. To learn more about it and get the exact step-by-step method, check out this post. Sumac is a middle eastern spice that has a distinctive, tangy flavour. You can find it in Middle Eastern stores or in the spice section of some health food stores or ethnic markets.
- 1 cup farro
- 1½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup chopped cucumber (about 2 small cucumbers)
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1 small)
- 1 cup red grapes, halved
- 4-5 romaine leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup packed chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tbsp packed chopped fresh mint
- 1½ cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 oz. can, drained and rinsed)
- ½ tbsp high-heat oil like avocado or grapeseed oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ tsp sumac
- 1 tsp raw honey (or maple syrup if vegan)
- 1 small garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of sea salt
- Rinse and drain the farro. Place in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until grains are slightly tender and chewy. Drain off any excess water and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the skins from the chickpeas* (ideal but not mandatory).
- Place chickpeas in a bowl and toss with oil, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until the chickpeas are crispy and golden, stirring a few times. Remove from the oven. Taste and sprinkle with a bit more chili powder and smoked paprika if you'd like (I like them really well spiced).
- Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small jar. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
- Place cooked farro, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, grapes and romaine in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Garnish with crispy chickpeas and fresh herbs. Enjoy!
“While we try to teach our children all about life, the farm teaches us what life’s all about.”