Tantalizing Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette

This is bound to be your new favorite summer salad.
This is bound to be your new favorite summer salad.

If like me, you can’t get enough of nuoc cham — that zesty, indispensable Vietnamese dipping sauce for spring rolls, rice noodle salads, and so much more — you will go bonkers for this summery tomato and grain salad.

“Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette” takes a dressing with a similar profile as nuoc cham — minus the lime juice — to dress a colorful, bountiful mix of chewy, nutty farro grains with fresh heirloom tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and a lavish amount of fresh parsley and tarragon leaves.

The recipe is from Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s in Portland, as published in Bon Appetit magazine.

The vinaigrette of fish sauce, garlic, white wine vinegar, sugar and a splash of water is briny, savory, fruity-tangy, and full of irresistible umami. In fact, it enhances the natural umami of the tomatoes, bringing out their flavor to the fullest.

The amount of dressing may not look like enough for the large amount of veggies and grains. But this vinaigrette is such a powerhouse of flavor, it more than does the job.

Scallions are charred in a pan before being added to the mix. McFadden cooks them whole, giving them a more eye-catching look. But I chopped mine into 1-inch lengths before cooking instead so that they’d be easier to eat once mixed into the salad. You can do, either. Don’t be afraid to let the green onions get deeply browned in some spots, as that hit of smoky char really adds to the overall dish, much like singed vegetables do similarly to pho broths.

As McFadden notes, this grain salad makes for a great side dish for grilled meats, poultry or fish.

Or just stick a fork into it greedily to enjoy its many charms on its own.

Leftovers make for a great lunch the next day, too.
Leftovers make for a great lunch the next day, too.

Farro and Tomato Salad with Fish-Sauce Vinaigrette

(Serves 4)

For Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, grated

3 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

For Farro and Assembly:

1 cup semi-pearled farro

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch scallions, trimmed, left whole or cut into 1-inch lengths

8 ounces small tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

8 ounces cherry and/or pear tomatoes, halved

2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

1/2 cup parsley leaves, rough chopped

1/2 cup tarragon leaves, rough chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette: Whisk garlic, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Do ahead: Vinaigrette can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

To cook the farro: Cook farro in a medium pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

Heat oil in a large skilled over medium-high. cook scallions, turning occasionally, until charred all over, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl with farro. Add both types of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and tarragon, and toss to combine. Add vinaigrette and toss again to coat; season with pepper.

Adapted from Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene’s in Portland, as published in Food & Wine

Another Joshua McFadden Recipe to Enjoy: Charred Broccoli with Tonnato, Pecorino, Lemon, and Chiles

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  • Fish sauce scares me, only because it’s called “fish sauce.” The truth is, I love Asian food and have certainly enjoyed things with fish sauce in them a billion times. Still, though, I don’t own a bottle. Maybe this is the recipe that changes that.

  • Jeff: Don’t fear the fish sauce. Once you have your first bottle in the kitchen, you won’t ever want to be without it. Like anchovies or Worcestershire sauce (which has anchovies in it), fish sauce just adds a great umami depth to anything it touches. That goes for non-Asian dishes, too, including Caesar salad dressing. Give it a try and you will be so glad you did.

  • I love the chewiness of farro along with its nutty taste. I can’t wait to try this salad with a dressing that I never would have thought of. I’ve pinned it, thank you for sharing.

  • What a neat dish! LOVE the vinaigrette — never ever thought to use fish sauce in one, but I will. And the salad is just the sort of thing we’re eating at this time of the year. Thanks!

  • Karen and John: The dressing is awesome! I can’t wait to use it on other salads, too.

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