Winter Magic, in Salad Form

February 26, 2015

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.

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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.

More: Why you should be toasting your grains more often

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. 

Toasted Farro Salad with Roasted Leeks and Root Vegetables

Serves 4

2 leeks
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
Sea salt
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

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

Photos by Elizabeth Stark

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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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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Robin Shrode
    Robin Shrode
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
  • QueenSashy
  • Elizabeth Stark
    Elizabeth Stark
Elizabeth Stark, along with her husband Brian Campbell, chronicles her passion for simple, fresh recipes on the award-wining food blog Brooklyn Supper.


Robin S. March 5, 2015
Looks fantastic! Would like to know the nutritional values of this dish for those of us who have to chart such data ...
Elizabeth S. March 6, 2015
Hi Robin, I totally understand how you might like that info. Unfortunately, I don't have a good system for figuring that out. There are lots of sites where you can plug in the info and get approximations, but I know that's not easy to do. Sorry!
Robin S. March 5, 2015
Looks fantastic! Would like to know the nutritional values of this dish for those of us who are having to chart such data ...
Sarah J. February 26, 2015
Everything about this salad appeals to me! And it's beautiful, too.
Elizabeth S. March 6, 2015
Thanks Sarah! (They say behind every great contributor is a great editor.)
QueenSashy February 26, 2015
It is the time of the year when we all go back to the roots, and we need more dishes like this -- original and refreshing.
Elizabeth S. March 6, 2015
Thanks QueenSashy! I'm feeling more than ready to move on to greener things, but am trying to enjoy this season of roots just before the thaw. Cheers!