The now famous Charlie Bird Farro Salad is a signature dish of the namesake restaurant in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. There are a couple of reasons why the recipe captured my attention: first, Melissa Clark calls it ‘one of the best’ farro salads; second, that the farro is cooked in a new-to-me savory sweet concoction of apple cider, bay leaves, and salt.
You can infuse an amazing amount of flavor into whole grains by cooking them along with aromatics and in liquid other than water. And though it does benefit from the extra flavorful farro, that’s just a fraction of what makes the Charlie Bird Farro Salad sensational.
What makes Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad so good?
To start with, the cooked and cooled farro is tossed in a zingy blend of fresh lemon juice, good olive oil, and salt. (This can be done up to one day ahead, making it a great salad for get togethers and weekday lunches.) Then you add an impressive array of ingredients: crunchy pistachios, sweet cherry tomatoes, peppery arugula, radishes, parsley, and mint.
Reading that list, you may be wondering (like I was) if they’ll work together. Spoiler alert: they do! The salad’s flavor is impressively well balanced. And with so many colors and textures, the salad is beautiful too.
A Few Recipe Changes
Though I stuck to the major components of the recipe as Melissa Clark wrote it, I did make a few changes thanks to the recipe’s comment thread.
It’s always entertaining and often enlightening to read the comment section of recipes from the New York Times. (You may remember the one I talked about with these Butter Cookies.) Readers weigh in with candid criticism and questions and offer tips and tricks of their own. This recipe’s comment thread had a couple of themes: that the type of farro wasn’t specified, and that the farro base was too salty.
After testing the recipe both ways, I agree with many readers about the salt, so I’ve reduced it by half. And for the farro, I recommend whole farro (see my How to Cook Farro post to learn all about farro varieties and how to cook them). You can use pearled or semi-pearled farro in this recipe, but will need to reduce the cooking time by a bit more than half (see recipe note for specific instructions).
The final change was to toss the pistachios and cheese in with the other ingredients just before serving, instead of adding them with the dressing in the beginning. I didn’t want the cheese to meld into the dressing or have the pistachios lose their crunch in an overnight stint in the refrigerator.
How to Make Charlie Bird Farro Salad
Step 1: Combine farro, apple cider, water, salt and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 30-35 minutes until farro is tender. Let cool. When cool, discard bay leaf and fluff with fork.
Step 2: Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil in a large salad bowl.
Step 3: Add farro to dressing and toss to coat. To serve, add remaining ingredients (cheese, pistachio nuts, arugula, parsley, mint, tomatoes, and radish), gently fold to combine. Season with flaky sea salt to taste and serve.
Charlie Bird Farro Salad
- 1 cup whole farro see recipe note #1 for using semi-pearled farro
- 1 cup apple cider
- 2 cups cold water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lemon juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 ounces parmesan cheese coarsely grated or shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 1/2 ounces chopped pistachio nuts about 1/2 cup
- 3 ounces baby arugula leaves
- 1 ounce flat leaf parsley or basil leaves, torn, about 1 cup
- 1 ounce mint leaves torn, about 1 cup
- 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced radish
- flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for finishing
- Bring farro, apple cider, water, salt and bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat; let simmer 30-35 minutes, or until farro is tender and liquid evaporates. Set aside to cool. (recipe note #2) Once farro is cool, discard bay leaves and fluff with fork.
- In a large salad bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Add farro and gently toss to coat. (You can keep this salad base for 4 hours at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. Bring farro mixture to room temperature before adding remaining ingredients.)
- When you're ready to serve, gently fold in cheese, pistachio nuts, arugula, parsley, mint, tomatoes, and radish. Season to taste with flaky sea salt and serve.
- If you use semi-pearled farro, reduce amount of water to 1 2/3 cups (total 2 2/3 cups total liquid between apple cider and water) and check package for cooking time, typically 10-15 minutes.
- If you want to speed the cooling process; lower the pan with cooked farro into an ice bath (taking care to avoid any water spilling into the farro); gently stir to cool farro quickly.