Autumn Vegetable Grain Salad with Cider Mustard Vinaigrette / by Chelsea Zwieg

Of all the food blogs that I follow and admire daily (there are many), one of the very very best is Deb from Smitten Kitchen. Her blog was one of the first that I started reading way back in high school, before I even understood how Facebook worked, much less had a blog of my own. Reading her recipes would always inspire me to be both a better cook and a better writer. All of this is a very lenght way of telling you that she has a recipe for broccoli on her site that changed my life. Life changing broccoli, guys. It does exist. I don't think I have cooked broccoli any other way since. I eat kind of a lot of broccoli. Because I'm a weirdo. 

So this broccoli.  It's basically a whole head of broccoli (stems and all), chopped up and roasted at a super high heat until it is charred (nearly burnt) and super crispy. Roasting broccoli was not a new concept to me, but keeping it in the oven far past when I normally would to produce the crispiest, most addicting broccoli I ever did taste was nothing short of mind blowing.

 I usually do as Deb recommends and shower it in lemon juice and red pepper flakes before devouring it all. But, in this very special salad edition of my broccoli obsession, I roasted some sweet potatoes and onions right alongside it, tossed with some farro and covered it all in cider mustard vinaigrette. The only thing making me happier than crispy broccoli right now is farro, so it was a pretty good situation. 

When I roasted the veggies, I split them between two pans with broccoli on one and sweet potatoes and onions on the other. The sweet potatoes only took 5 minutes longer than the broccoli. So if you were to cut them a little smaller than I did, you could easily turn this into a one-pan thing, which is always good. 

Also good: roasting 5 more pans of broccoli because trust me you will never regret that. 

Autumn Vegetable Grain Salad with Cider Mustard Vinaigrette 

Serves 4 

For the salad:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 pound broccoli
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 2 cups spinach, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the dressing: 

  • 3 tbsp. apple cider
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tsp. honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Peel the sweet potato and cut into small cubes. Spread in a an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Peel and thinly slice the onion and add it to the pan with the sweet potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (to taste), 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder and 1/2 tbsp. chili powder. Toss with your hands or a spatula to coat the veggies. 

Remove the florets from the broccoli stems and cut the larger ones into bite sized pieces. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin from the stems and chop into small rounds. Place the chopped stems and florets on a second rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and the remaining garlic and chili powder. 

Place the two pans in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the veggies and move them around for even cooking. If your oven tends towards uneven cooking, you might want to turn the trays at this point. Roast an additional 10 minutes, until the broccoli is charred and super crispy. Check the sweet potatoes and add more time if necessary. Mine needed 5 more minutes than the broccoli, but if your cubes are slightly larger they might need more time.

While the veggies are roasting, bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro, reduce to a simmer, and cook 20-25 minutes, until the farro is tender. Drain the farro and return it to the saucepan. Add the spinach and toss until the spinach wilts. The heat of the pan and the farro should wilt it quickly. If it does not, you can return it the heat for a minute to cook the spinach a little more. Transfer the farro/spinach mixture to a large bowl. 

Add the sweet potatoes, red onion and broccoli to the farro and toss to combine. Stir in the walnuts. 

To make the dressing, whisk cider, vinegar, mustard and honey until combined. Slowly stream in the oil, whisking quickly, until the dressing is smooth and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serve warm. Top the salad with feta right before serving.