There is something about this salad that is reminiscent of Caesar Salad. There are no eggs or anchovies, but the bread, grilled lettuce, lemon and parmesan is enough to have the mind wander back to those Caesar Salad days before we banned non-vegetarian items (including eggs) from our kitchen. It is certainly a lemony salad, but that perfectly suits the grilled lettuce.
The dressing is really interesting, with both maple syrup and Pernod, which nicely balances the fresh lemon and preserved lemon. Neither the syrup or pernod is obvious in the dressing, but the mix is balanced and perfect.
Ottolenghi uses farro in this dish but freekeh can be used equally as well. In fact, any chewy grain could be used.
This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. In this recipe we suggest some alternatives for farro, and use Italian friselle (twice baked/dried bread) rather than fresh bread toasted in the oven.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Similar dishes include Warm Barley and Cannellini Beans Salad with Charred Broccolini, Freekeh and Burghul Pilaf, Herby Freekeh Salad with Peas, Freekeh Salad with Broad Beans, French Braised Lettuce with Broad Beans and Peas, and Thai Lettuce Wraps.
Grilled Lettuce with Farro and Lemon
75g farro or freekeh (see notes below for substitutes)
1 medium lemon
1 medium preserved lemon, cut in half and sliced thinly, seeds discarded
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 shallot, finely chopped
75ml olive oil
2 tspn Pernod or another aniseedy alcohol, such as raki or pastis
0.75 tspn maple syrup
2 slices crusty white bread (or a piece of the dried Italian bread, friselle)
2 Cos lettuce hearts, outer leaves removed and quartered lengthways
15g tarragon leaves or dill leaves, roughly chopped
50g Parmesan, coarsely grated or shaved
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 240C or 220C fan forced.
First, cook the farro. Simmer in boiling salted water over medium heat for around 14 minutes, until the grain is cooked but still has plenty of bite. Drain, refresh, and set aside to dry.
While the farro is cooking, make the dressing. Use a small sharp knife to trim the top and bottom of the lemon, then cut down its sides following its natural curve to remove the skin and white pith. Over a medium bowl, remove the segments by slicing between the membranes. Remove the seeds from the segments, and then chop them roughly. Place the chopped lemon and any juice into the bowl, with the preserved lemon, garlic, shallot, 2 Tblspn of the olive oil, the Pernod, maple syrup, a pinch or two of sea salt and a generous grind on black pepper. Gently whisk and set aside.
If you are using friselle, break about half of one slice of the dried bread into rough pieces of about 3 cms in size. Otherwise, if you are using bread slices, brush then with 2 Tblspn olive oil and place them on a small baking tray and put in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes, turning over halfway. Remove from the oven when they are crisp and starting to brown, allow to cool down, and break into rough 3cm croutons.
When you are ready to serve, heat a ridge grill/griddle pan on a high heat for about 5 mins or until quite hot. While waiting, put the cos lettuce in a large bowl with the remaining Tblspn of olive oil and a pinch or two of sea salt. Mix gently, and when the grill pan is smoking hot, place the lettuce wedges in the pan for approx 30 seconds, turning over once, so they get char marks all over.
Return the grilled lettuce to the bow and add the cooked farro, tarragon or dill, and the dressing. Gently mix with your hands and then add the croutons and parmesan. Toss again, and serve.
recipe notes and alternatives
Freekeh, wheatberry and barley make good substitutes for the Farro.
Grill lemon segments and include them in the dressing in place of the chopped lemon segments.
I love using the dried Italian Friselle or Greek Dakos for the croutons in this salad, and it saves having to bake the bread to dry it out.