Salad shouldn't be an obligation or an afterthought -- and it doesn't always have to be kale, either. Every other Thursday, Elizabeth Stark from Brooklyn Supper will help you make salads you actually want to eat.
Today: Don't be intimidated by scary-looking root vegetables. Beneath their bristly exterior, turnips and rutabagas are waiting to be coaxed into a winter salad with nutty farro and lemony cheese.
Root vegetables call for an adventurous spirit. Not because they need inspired or creative preparations, but because selecting your dinner from a dirty pile of lumpy, pitted, bruised, and otherwise misshapen roots requires optimism. Whether it's rutabagas or turnips, I'm always surprised to find, you know, real food under such an unwelcoming exterior.
But a root's real transformation happens in the oven: Raw rutabagas with all the tenderness of a building block soften and turnips lose their bitter edge. After a bit of roasting, it's all sweet flesh and crisp edges. Just a little bit of winter magic, right there in the oven.
For this salad, I bring in another food that benefits from intense heat: farro. A few minutes of dry toasting intensifies the nutty flavor of the grains (thanks to the Maillard reaction), which is perfect for a winter salad. After toasting, I cook my farro pasta-style, in a big pot of salted water, until each grain perfectly bridges the gap between chewy and tender.
Toasted farro tossed with roasted turnips, rutabagas, and leeks -- and accompanied by lemony farmer's cheese and lots of herbs -- is just the right kind of light dinner or hearty lunch for late winter. Though this salad is lovely warm, its robust ingredients hold up nicely in the fridge, too, so make enough for leftovers.
2 medium turnips, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into 1/2 inch-thick half moons
1 large rutabaga, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into 1/2 inch-thick half moons
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Ground black pepper
3/4 cup farro
Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tablespoons juice
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced dill
1/4 cup farmer's cheese
Photos by Elizabeth Stark