Quinoa and Farro Salad with Pickled Fennel

June 24, 2014

Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: A bright, fresh grain salad for long, summer days. 

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We're big fans of Bklyn Larder here at Food52. Owned and operated by the masterminds behind franny's (known for its chewy, blistered pizzas and vegetable-whispering chefs), Bklyn Larder is a small shop in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn that stocks a dizzying array of everything you want to buy: the best local cheeses and chocolates, the freshest spices, imported pastas and hand-rolled couscous, delicious house-made sweets like olive oil cake and dark chocolate shortbread cookies, and arguably the best selection of prepared foods in the Tri-state area.

Once or twice a month, I treat myself and stop in on my way to work for a buttermilk biscuit and coffee (breakfast), and a selection of a few small items to take with me for lunch. Everything is excellent: their tuna salad is beyond reproach, their soups are impossibly fresh (no limp greens or soggy beans here) and they have a spicy feta spread that may just be better than butter.

But the thing I crave the most is an unassuming little grain salad. To make it, they start with a base of not one but two grains: quinoa and farro (yes, technically that's one grain and one seed). To this winning combo, they add some chopped pickled fennel made in-house and a healthy dose of fresh dill. The result is an explosion of crunchy, nutty, fragrant and sour. I got so addicted to the stuff that I knew I had to start making it at home -- I couldn't justify multiple trips to Bklyn Larder each week, but I had to have this salad.

More: Turn your leftover quinoa into dinner, all week long.

Plus, I had reason to believe Clara might like it too; she loves most tart things, and she's recently revealed herself to be a fellow farro freak. So I quick-pickled some fennel using this recipe from Amanda as a jumping off point, cooked up a small pot of quinoa and a small pot of farro and stirred it all together with a slick of olive oil, some of the pickling liquid and lots of dill.

I ate the salad for lunch four days in a row. Clara was skeptical at first, but she came around once she got past its somewhat drab appearance and got a taste.

Although I haven't tried it yet, I imagine it would be even better with some of the pickled ramps sitting in my fridge.


Quinoa and Farro Salad with Pickled Fennel


Quinoa and Farro Salad with Pickled Fennel

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

For the Pickled Fennel:

1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed but with stems trimmed, quartered and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch planks
1 hot dried chili (optional)
2 sprigs dill
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
3/4 cups water

For the Salad:

1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled farro
1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely (1/4-inch) chopped pickled fennel
1 tablespoon fennel pickling liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup roughly chopped dill leaves (or half dill, half fennel fronds if you saved them)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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cucina D. August 6, 2014
this salad sounds delicious and it includes fennel which i love and it's pickled which, well... i love! thank you for sharing this beautiful dish for me to add to my famiglia's summer recipe file :)
Heena K. June 30, 2014
I have been trying to crack this recipe for months. Thanks so much!
Matt L. June 30, 2014
This looks absolutely delicious and I can't wait to make it - especially love adding the fennel pickling liquer! Have you ever considered toasting the farro first, it's something I've started doing recently and it adds a real nuttiness to the farro - do you think it would work? This is how I do it...
jenniebgood June 27, 2014
I love mixed grain salads -I think they take me back to my Rice A Roni "rice pilaf" childhood days. I loved that mix - it had rice (of course), some kind of nut (almond?) and little bits of broken pasta or orzo -I can't remember which. But I do remember loving all the different textures and flavors. I haven't had it in years but your salad reminds me a little of that. What a different (food) world we live in now! To think of the endless directions you can go with a grain salad. Your take on Brooklyn Larder's salad sounds wonderful - can't wait to try it!
Faythe June 24, 2014
Merrill I love that you're on here!! I joined a while ago and then saw your article... PS Clara is so dang cute!
JudyH June 24, 2014
I love your recipe but I come back for the sweet pictures of Clara enjoying her food. She is adorable! You could add some color by pickling some carrots along with the fennel.
ChefJune June 24, 2014
LOVE (no. maybe ADORE) the pickled fennel idea! and wondered why you didn't use the fennel fronds until I saw them later in the recipe. Cannot wait to make this salad. picking up some more farro this evening.
Merrill S. June 24, 2014
Ha! (Hidden fennel fronds.)
stephanieRD June 24, 2014
Clara is quite the hungry little girl! Love the pics you share..she's growing so fast! And SO into grain salads for bagged lunches these days with the warm weather.
Merrill S. June 24, 2014