Farro and Pecorino Salad
Farro is an ancient, unhybridized type of wheat believed to have potent antioxidant qualities. Hardy loves it for its textural contrast against warm-weather produce such as cucumber and tomato, and for the way it emphasizes the nutty richness of the Pecorino. The secret, he says, is the fattiness of the sheep's milk, which balances the texture and acidity of the other ingredients. And there's another trick: "A good, fragrant bottle of olive oil is critical to making this dish sing," the chef notes. "It will cost you $20 to $30 a liter, which sounds like a lot, but that's what you'd spend on a nice bottle of wine. It's worth every penny, and will make your food taste like a professional's!"
THE FARRO: Combine the farro, apple juice, and water in a three- to four-quart saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Cook the farro, adding water as necessary, until the grain is tender and there is very little liquid left, about 45 minutes. Strain off the remaining liquid and cool the farro by spreading it on a baking sheet.
THE SALAD: In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, arugula, mint, parsley, pistachios, and olive oil. Stir in the cooled farro. Squeeze the lemon over the top of the salad and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter, and top with Pecorino shavings.
CHEATS: This is one of those recipes that can be adapted to suit a hectic schedule, or the changing seasons. Add pitted, dry cured olives and sun-dried tomatoes from the antipasti bar at your local deli, or substitute chunks of roasted winter squash, braised greens, and toasted pumpkinseeds for the tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, and pistachios.
DO-AHEAD: Once cooked, farro lasts several days in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.
Recipe by Ryan Hardy, Little Nell, Apsen, Colorado