This is my new favorite summer side. When I made it for the first time a few weeks ago, I asked myself: why did I not have this idea years ago? It’s sensual, finger-licking good, and it’s fantastically easy to prepare, especially if you cook the farro ahead. Versatile too, it works beautifully with any barbecued meat or fish, especially grilled steak, lamb chops, or chicken breast but also with salmon or shrimp. And you can easily double and triple the recipe—perfect when surprise guests show up.
Admittedly, it uses one expensive ingredient, precious saffron—but once you try it you will understand why I love it here so much. The delicate aroma of the spice beautifully melds with the deep sweetness of the roasted tomatoes and the distinct nuttiness of farro. A drizzle of balsamic brings the flavors together. And did I mention the stunning golden color of the grain?
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 cups water, plus 3 tablespoons hot water
1 cup semi-pearled farro (see note)
Roasted tomatoes, and to finish
1 pint whole cherry tomatoes (scant 2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
1 tablespoon golden balsamic vinegar, more to taste
1 Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F .
2 To prepare the farro: add the saffron threads to a small bowl. Cover with the 3 tablespoons hot water and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
3 Meanwhile bring the 2 cups water and the farro to a boil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the saffron threads with their soaking liquid. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid, and add the farro to a large bowl. (I always reserve the aromatic intensely colorful liquid to use in a soup or even for pasta later.) Season farro with salt to taste and a few turns of freshly ground pepper—you don’t want to overpower the delicate aroma of saffron.
4 To roast the tomatoes, and to finish: cut the cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise and add them to a large rimmed baking sheet. Gently toss with olive oil, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, the 1/4 teaspoon pepper, using your hands.
5 Roast until the tomato halves are starting to brown and are softened throughout when gently pressed, about 20 minutes, depending on their size. Remove from the oven, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, and allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Using a spatula, gently scrape the tomatoes and any juices into the bowl with the farro. Drizzle with a little more balsamic if you like and very gently toss to combine. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes for flavors to meld.
Make ahead: farro can be made up to 3 days ahead. Remove about 1 hour ahead to allow to come to room temperature. Separate any clusters of grains with your fingers, or with a wooden spoon.
Farro: farro sold in the US is often imported from Italy, and typically semi-pearled. If you use a whole-grain farro—I love the one from Bluebird Grain Farms—, be sure to soak the grain overnight, and cook anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes until tender with a slight chew.