Happy Memorial Day!
For me, Memorial Day always brings back memories of the town pool opening, our first al fresco dinner on the back deck, and licking melty fudgscicles that Dad would hand out the window as we played “Ice Cream Man.” For some reason those popsicles tasted so much better when you envisioned them being handed to you from an ice cream truck. Maybe I can get Ben to play “Ice Cream Man” with me this year.
Today it was actually a dreary, humid day here in Durham. Definitely NOT what one would hope for on a Memorial Day holiday. That’s ok- for all of you who follow me on Instagram, you know that I got my tanning time in on Saturday, when I lounged for a few hours by the pool, sipping on sun tea and catching up on Real Simple (I think I was still on April). Glorious!
Rainy weather or not, Memorial Day deserves a summery spread, so here we go! I’ve been dying to lighten up a caprese pasta salad recipe for some time now, so I decided to sub farro for pasta in order to pack a healthier and heartier punch. Farro is a very dense grain, much more al dente than quinoa or couscous, which makes it a perfect alternative to pasta. Cooked to al dente, farro also holds up well when tossed with any vinaigrette (quinoa tends to suck up all the extra liquid and get mealy, in my experience).
If you’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of farro, or the nutritional breakdown of farro vs. quinoa, be sure to check out the following links:
Huffington Post: What is Farro?
I also made my own pesto because I can never bring myself to pay $8+ for a tiny can of prepared pesto that is really half olive oil. This way I can control how much oil I want to add, and experiment with a few new flavors (like lemon!). I also made this batch with roasted, salted almonds because pine nuts are way too expensive.
I used some of the homemade pesto in the lemon pesto vinaigrette for the salad, and saved the rest in a mason jar for future dinners. It should last about three weeks in the fridge (or for three years in the freezer, if your brain works like mine does and you know that the freezer really stops time).
When the slightly sweet, tangy pesto vinaigrette is drizzled over farro mixed with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and roasted corn, this salad cannot be beat- rainy Memorial Day or not!
- 1/2 cup homemade lemon pesto (see recipe below)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 tbsp reserved farro liquid
- 2 cups farro, uncooked (5 cups water)
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
- 12 oz. container of mozzarella balls, halved (I used bocconcini)
- 1/4 cup basil chiffonade (leaves cut into long strips)
- Homemade Lemon Pesto:
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds (if unsalted, add 1 tsp salt)
- 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup parmesan-romano cheese
- Prepare farro according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, reserving a bit of the starchy cooking liquid for later.
- Prepare pesto: In food processor, add the garlic and almonds, and pulse until smooth. Add the basil and lemon juice and continue to process on high, scraping down sides occasionally.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, then turn speed down to low and add the pepper and cheese. Pulse a few more times until blended.
- Store in a mason jar for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.
- Prepare the pesto vinaigrette: add 1/2 cup homemade pesto, balsamic vinegar, honey, and reserved farro liquid in a jar and shake vigorously.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Happy Memorial Day, and Happy Summer to all!