Cool off with Farro Salad

Farro Salad
Grain salads are always a good solution to cooking on hot summer days. Cook up your grain in the early morning and then the kitchen will be cool. I love experimenting with different rice varieties, wheat berries, and cracked wheat to use as the base for cooling summer salads. I particularly like the toothsome, nutty quality of farro. Farro is an ancient strain of wheat that looks like plump barley kernels.

You can find faro in health food stores, gourmet food stores and now in many supermarkets. Don’t get confused with spelt. Spelt sometimes is called farro but tastes different and takes much longer to cook. Make sure to select whole grain farro; pearlized farro has the hull removed and cooks in half the time.. Some are quick cooking while this untreated whole wheat farro takes longer to cook. It’s best to check the package for what specific farro you buy. For this recipe I used Bob’s Red Hill organic Farro.

Higher in protein than pasta or rice, farro can be used in stews, soups, salads or as a substitute in rice dishes like risotto. Farro, pronounced Farr-oh, has recently has become a grain that Americans love to eat. An added plus is that farro is recommended for diabetics. You can have fun with different variations on this salad. Sometimes I’ll add sliced peaches and sliced burrata or mozzarella cheese and finish it with a drizzle of balsamic syrup. Feel free to mix up the vegetables called for the tasty tips below.

This is a variation on tabouli, the Middle Eastern cracked wheat salad traditionally made with olive oil, lemon, mint, tomato, and loads of parsley. While some recipes insist on soaking the farro before cooking I have found that the method below works beautifully and will have a distinctive al dente crunchiness. In this recipe mint and tomatoes are replaced with chopped cucumber, radishes, and fresh goat or feta cheese. Serve this with a chilled soup on a hot summer night for a light and satisfying dinner.

Tasty Tips:

  • Add a cup of cooked vegetables like chopped green beans, squash, corn, asparagus tips, broccoli or cauliflower florets.
  • For a more substantial salad add a cup of cooked shredded chicken or cold diced shrimp.
  • Feel free to double this recipe.
  • Cooked corn is an excellent addition.

Farro Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

1 cup whole wheat farro (I used Bob’s Red Hill organic Farro)

3 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup finely diced European cucumber

3/4 cup finely diced radishes

3/4 cup peeled and finely diced carrots

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

1/2 cup favorite vinaigrette

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound goat or feta cheese, crumbled


Parsley leaves

  1. Rinse and drain in a fine-mesh colander set in a sink. Transfer the farro into a large saucepan, cover with water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered until tender, about 30 minutes. The farro should have a little bite to it. Drain again in the colander, and place in a serving bowl. Cool to room temperature.
  1. Add the red onion, cucumber, radishes, and carrots. Mix with a two-pronged fork, adding the parsley, chives, and mint.
  1. To make the dressing, combine the vinaigrette, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk until incorporated. Taste for seasoning.
  1. Pour the dressing over the farro and mix with a fork to fluff the farro. Carefully add the goat or feta cheese. Taste for seasoning and garnish with parsley leaves. Chill for at least 3 hours. Serve chilled and garnish just before serving.

Advance Preparation

Can be prepared 4 hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated until serving.

Paris Perfect Fig and Goat Cheese Salad



I was craving a trip to Paris. After all it had been a couple of decades since we had lived there and wanted to return to reminisce and celebrate a birthday. Why not recreate our past by finding an apartment so I could cook when I felt the urge? As a chef, visiting the open-air markets is an invitation to prepare a meal that is local, seasonal and French. As I trolled the web for apartments I came across Paris Perfect, an apartment rental agency that also has a concierge for restaurants and outings, special culinary experiences and much more. I was in!

I selected an apartment in the center of Paris that had been remodeled with… get this… a washer/dryer, dishwasher and air conditioning. It was beautifully furnished and even had 2 TV’s so no arguing with my husband about which French station we wanted to watch. Our location was right in the center of Paris adjacent to Pont Neuf. Every day was an adventure with visits to museums, concerts and historical monuments. Sure, I loved those outings- but going to the farmers market was truly thrilling for me. My mind was racing as I eyed the oysters, cuts of lamb and beef, rotisserie chickens juices dripping into the roasted potatoes, orange and yellow cheeses galore, a grand selection of baked goods and a kaleidoscope of colorful, aromatic and seasonal fruits and vegetables. One day we made a lunch of pates, fresh salads, cheese and a crispy baguette. So fun and memorable.


As the days ticked by we decided to have Paris Perfect’s chef Brian Defer cook us dinner in our small but well-equipped kitchen. Starting with champagne we enjoyed a dinner of this Roasted Fig Salad with Goat Cheese. The entrée was stuffed sole with leeks and creamy potato gratin Dauphinoise, followed by end of the summer peach charlotte. Chef Defer just released his first cookbook, Les Marches Francais featuring seasonal Paris market cooking and is available on Amazon.


I couldn’t get this salad out of my mind—Fresh figs are seasonal and will soon be out of season so I urge you to try this colorful and autumnal salad while figs are still available. Any fresh variety will work in this salad. I’ve now made it a few times with some adaptations. Here’s the thing, it is very versatile. Try it as a first course or as an after the main course salad. Either way it is winner.



Paris Perfect Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

Serves 4


Roasted Garlic Shallot Vinaigrette

3 medium shallots, peeled

6 garlic cloves, ends removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

1 ½ teaspoons honey

1/2 cup olive oil


8 large fresh figs, rinsed and stems removed

8 heaping teaspoons fresh goat cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

Thyme leaves

3/4 pound arugula greens

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or Marcona almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° Place the shallots and garlic on a baking sheet. Coat with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast them, turning them midway, for about 45 minutes, or until browned and lightly caramelized. Cool.


  1. In a small food processor combine the shallots and garlic and puree. Add the vinegar, mustard and the olive oil and blend until the dressing is emulsified. Add salt and pepper and season to taste. Before serving, stir the dressing thoroughly.


  1. Decrease the oven temperature to 350F. Place the figs on a foil-lined baking sheet. With a small paring knife, cut each fig ¾ of the way down making sure to keep the fig intact. Move the fig a quarter turn and make another cut so that the fig opens like a flower. Arrange each teaspoon of goat cheese in the center of each fig. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil equally over the figs and place a few thyme leaves on top. Roast for about 12 minutes or until cheese is soft and beginning to melt.


  1. While the figs are roasting combine the arugula, and pine nuts or almonds in a large salad bowl. To serve, pour enough dressing over the salad to moisten and mix to combine. Place on serving plates, arrange the warm figs on top and serve immediately.


Advance Preparation: The vinaigrette may be prepared up to 2 weeks ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and whisk before using. The salad can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated. Make the figs up 6 hours ahead, lightly cover and leave at room temperature until roasting.


Kale Salad: It’s Good For You And Tastes Great


Kale, that curly dark green leaf, is ubiquitous. I even saw it in Whole Foods today in the chip section… as in kale chips in savory flavors. I’ve baked and roasted it and added it to soups and sauces. But I hadn’t prepared it raw. How happy I am to report that it is delicious as a salad and is now a family favorite.

I tasted this at The Napa Valley Grill in Los Angeles and thought it would be even better with a few changes. I used currants instead of raisins and Spanish Marcona almonds instead of California almonds. I also like the idea of combining crispy sweet romaine lettuce with the slightly bitter kale. It is a happy combination of flavors.

The lemony whole-grain mustard dressing is just the ticket to dress these mixed greens. Remember that you can use this vinaigrette with any other green salad with equally satisfying results. If you can find Meyer lemons use them for an even richer citrus flavor. And tiny diced pears, peaches, nectarines, plums or even dried apricots make a colorful substitute for the currants. Serve this salad as a side dish with grilled fish or poultry or as a main course for lunch.

Cook’s Notes;

  • To cook the quinoa, rinse ¾ cup quinoa, combine quinoa with 1 ½ cups water or chicken stock and boil it for 10 minutes. Let cool.


  • To shred the kale and lettuce, stack leaves on top of each other, roll up tightly and then thinly slice through the leaves until you have shredded greens.


Shredded Kale and Romaine Salad with Quinoa, Currants and Almonds

Serves 6 as a side dish or 3 to 4 as a main dish


5 ounces shredded kale (½ 10 ounce bag)

1 medium head of Romaine lettuce, dark green leaves removed, shredded

1 1/2 cups cooked cooled quinoa

1/3 cup dried currants

1/3 cup toasted almonds, preferably Marcona, coarsely chopped



1/2 cup olive oil

¼ cup tablespoons lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium shallot, minced

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon style whole grain mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


2    tablespoons freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish



  • In a salad bowl combine the kale, lettuce, quinoa, currants and almonds together and toss.


  • In a food processor combine the salad dressing ingredients. Process until smooth. Taste for seasoning.


  • Just before serving, toss the dressing with the salad ingredients and garnish with the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

This classic Provencal salad is said to originate in Nice, France. Many modern Nicoise-style salads include fresh grilled ahi tuna, but I prefer the imported canned variety packed in oil for a more traditional recipe.

Look for small, bright green beans for sweet tender flavor. You can also use fingerling potatoes and just cut them into thin strips. I prefer hard-boiled eggs to have a bright yellow center that offsets the other colors in the salad. The best method is to bring the eggs to a boil and then turn off the heat, cover them for 9 minutes. Cool and peel.

Nicoise olives add a briny meatiness to this zesty vegetable and tuna mixture. A classic Nicoise salad always include some anchovies so feel free to add them if your group likes them. I am fond of the Spanish white anchovies that come refrigerated and are milder and sweeter than their canned cousins.

Salad Nicoise

Serves 6 to 8


1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes

1 pound green beans, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned (see tip)

1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and julienned

1/2 cup Nicoise olives, drained and stemmed

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and cut into 11/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons finely basil

Freshly ground black pepper

3 5-ounce cans imported tuna packed in oil, drained and broken into chunks


2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


3 hard-cooked eggs, quartered

2 small tomatoes, sliced into sixths or ½ pint yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved

Basil leaves

6 to 10 anchovy fillets, rinsed and drained on paper towels (optional)

1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon their size. Drain and cool. When cool, peel and cut into julienne slices. Place in a large bowl.

2. In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. Immerse the green beans and cook until tender but slightly resistant, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and place in ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, drain well and place in the bowl with the potatoes.

3. Add the carrots, red pepper, olives, red onion, capers, basil, black pepper and half of the tuna to the vegetables and toss to combine.

4. To make the dressing, combine the garlic, mustard, basil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. When ready to serve, use just enough dressing to moisten the salad. Toss carefully to combine, making sure not to break up the capers. Taste for seasoning. Mound the salad high in a large, shallow serving bowl. Place the remaining tuna (and anchovies, if desired) on the top of the salad. Spoon a little dressing on the tuna. Alternate the egg wedges and tomatoes around the outside edge. Garnish with basil leaves and serve. Serve extra dressing on the side.

Tip: To julienne a vegetable, cut it into a rectangle and then cut into thin slices one way and then cut into thin slices the other way creating long, thin strips that look pretty in the salad.

Advance Preparation: This may be prepared through Step 4 up to one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate the dressing and the salad.


A fresh take on caprese salad

Italian Caprese Salad is made for the summer season. This classic dish alternates vibrant red tomato spokes with slices of creamy mozzarella and fragrant bright green basil leaves. It kind of reminds you of the color of the Italian flag.

You don’t even need a recipe for this well-loved salad. Pick the freshest, ripe tomatoes as the star component. Alternate tomato slices with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh green basil leaves and you are good to go. All you need for garnishing is some fruity olive oil and salt and pepper.

Sometimes I like to freshen up the idea and give it a new look. Years ago I enjoyed a tomato and watermelon salad in East Hampton and thought it would be the basis of a good alternative to the classic Caprese Salad.

Beautiful on a buffet table, this variation s a welcome surprise. Here, large red, ripe tomatoes are sliced and overlapped on a platter. The refreshing and texturally pleasing watermelon, cucumber and feta relish is dolloped on top of each tomato. Make sure to have a couple of large spoons for ease in serving.



Summer Caprese Salad with Watermelon, Cucumber and Feta Relish

Serves 6 to 8


1 1/2 cups ½-inch diced seedless yellow or red watermelon

1 ½ cups ½-inch diced European cucumber

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped



¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


2 cups mixed greens like spring greens or arugula or mache

6 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes



  1. Combine all of the relish ingredients in a medium bowl carefully, making sure to not break the watermelon into smaller pieces. Reserve.


  1. In a small bowl, add the red wine vinegar. While whisking, slowly stream in the olive oil and continue whisking until the dressing is emulsified. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper.


  1. Just before serving. Arrange the mixed greens in the center of a large circular platter. Cut the tomatoes into 1 ½- inch slices and arrange on a platter in a circular pattern overlapping.
  2. Pour about half of the dressing over the relish and mix to combine. Taste for seasoning. Place a dollop of relish on each tomato slice. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve immediately.


Advance Preparation: Relish and dressing may be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered and kept at room temperature. It is best to finish this just before serving.


The Clever Cook Could:


  • Substitute diced or tiny balls of fresh mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese for the feta cheese.


  • This can be doubled. Use a very large platter or 2 platters.


  • You can make these into towers. Place a slice of tomato on the bottom of a salad plate and then a dollop of relish. Repeat 1 more time.

With summer on the horizon, it’s time to think about potato salad

Make sure to keep the potato salad refrigerated until serving.

Make sure to keep the potato salad refrigerated until serving.

At a national potato salad contest I judged last summer, every entrant claimed to have the “best” recipe. After sampling more varieties than I can remember, I came to the obvious conclusion that taste is truly a matter of personal opinion.

I couldn’t enter either of my potato salads into that contest but I still think either of these “coulda been a contender.” One has all the components of classic American potato salad with a little pizzazz. The secret ingredient is celery seed. This salad is creamy, mustardy and even includes chopped hard-boiled eggs. Make sure to keep the salad chilled at all times to avoid any health problems.

My other recipe is a zesty, tomato-vinaigrette-dressed potato salad that has no dairy in it, so you can serve it at an outside gathering without worrying about leaving it in the sun. It is also perfect for those allergic to dairy. Much of the flavor comes from the sun-dried tomato pesto, balsamic vinegar and capers.

I prefer unpeeled potatoes for potato salad because they add color (not to mention it saves time in the kitchen). Scrub them well since there can be dirt on them.

Diane’s Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

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Serves 6-8

3 pounds medium red rose or bliss, tan-skinned or yellow (Yukon Gold) potatoes


3/4 cup sour cream

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 celery stalks, finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped scallions

2 teaspoons celery seed

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon grainy mustard

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Wash and scrub off any dirt on the potatoes.
2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes for 30 minutes or until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool. Do not peel. Cut into 2-inch chunks and place in a medium bowl.

3. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, celery, scallions, celery seed, parsley, chopped egg, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well.

4. Pour mixture over potatoes and mix gently until coated. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to one day ahead.

5. To serve, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve cold.

Advance preparation: Can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Caper Vinaigrette

Serves 6 to 8


1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons store-bought Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

2 tablespoons drained and rinsed capers

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup olive oil

3 pounds small potatoes such as creamers or fingerlings, unpeeled

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for the garnish

1. In a small bowl, combine vinegars, mustard, tomato pesto, capers, salt, pepper and parsley. Whisk well to combine. Slowly stream in the olive oil, while whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Set aside.

2. Wash and scrub off any dirt on the potatoes.

3. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook potatoes about 20 to 25 minutes or until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork. Drain and cool slightly. Cut into bite-sized chunks and place in a medium bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and mix gently until coated. Taste for seasoning.

4. Transfer into a serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours. Take out of the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Advance preparation: This can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Make sure to remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Taste for seasoning.

Chef’s Salad

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  • 2 heads of butter lettuce, pale inner leaves only, washed and dried
  • 13 pound honey-baked ham, cut into julienne
  • 13 pound smoked chicken or roast turkey, cut into julienne
  • 8 ounces Monterey jack or Swiss cheese, cut into julienne
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a large salad serving bowl, arrange the leaves of the butter lettuce, tearing the larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Arrange the ham, smoked chicken and cheese on top of the lettuce. You can keep each ingredient separate from the others or jumble them all together. The julienne strips could radiate outward from the center of the salad like the spokes of a wheel. Place the wedges of cherry tomato and hard-boiled egg among the main ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, and salt and pepper until well-blended. While continuously whisking the dressing, drizzle in the oil, and continue whisking for another 10 to 20 seconds until emulsified.
  3. The salad should be served with the dressing on the side, then dressed and tossed at the table.

Makes 4 servings.