Butternut Squash Farro Salad

By Amanda Ryan on Monday, April 8th, 2013

When I got married, my friends and family knew I loved to cook so, naturally, everybody gifted me cookbooks. Being a newlywed, I felt like every meal I made needed to be gourmet, delicious, and beautiful, so I used these cookbooks religiously. I would spend hours looking through recipes finding just the right one for the evening. I was a machine.

Stuffed chicken breasts, seared salmon, filet mignon with homemade herb butter.

I made it all.

Then one day, I didn’t have time to plan a fancy meal so I frantically threw a bunch of stuff into a pot, crossed my fingers and hoped it was edible.

And something amazing happened.

My husband said, “Keep this recipe. This is the best thing you’ve ever made.”

And that’s when I pretty much stopped using recipes and began to experiment.

My grocery shopping has since evolved from being one endlessly frustrating list to complete freedom, as I walk through the store every day grabbing ingredients that look good to me, instead of what some arbitrary recipe has told me is going to taste good.

And that’s how this dish came about.

This recipe is a combination of many of my absolute favorite foods ever: farro, beets, kale, butternut squash, mustard, parmesan cheese, and chicken. 

Because I love these foods and I buy what I love while I’m grocery shopping, I just happened to have all of these in my fridge on the random evening this was created.

I started roasting the beets and squash with no idea what my next step was going to be and, before I knew it, I was serving this to my husband and a friend—crossing my fingers, hoping it was edible.

I wasn’t hungry, as I had eaten a large lunch late in the day, but after the reaction to this dish, I had to take a bite.

One bite turned into two servings and, needless to say, there weren’t any leftovers.

If you want to follow my non-recipe recipe, here’s what I used:

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 beets, diced
  • 1/2 butternut squash, diced
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or asiago cheese
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for roasting vegetables
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Here’s how I did it:

  • Fill a medium pot with water, and bring to a boil. Add farro and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, or until desired texture. Drain, and set aside.
  • In a shallow roasting dish, toss beets and butternut squash in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Stir mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic into a bowl. Set aside.
  • Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika. Grill until cooked thoroughly. Slice into bite-sized pieces.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, or large side of cheese grater, shave cheese into wide slivers. (I love to have big pieces of cheese in this, but if you’d prefer a finer grate, go for it!)
  • Chop kale into bite-sized pieces. (The smaller, the better.)
  • Take everything, toss it into a large bowl, making sure the dressing gets evenly distributed, and enjoy!

Photography by Benjamin Hunter.

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