I am a bit of a salt addict. If you made me pick between a salty or sweet snack, I would pick salty without a moment’s hesitation. But when an interesting cooking challenge arose where I couldn’t use salt, I decided not to shirk it. I offered to bring a side dish to a dinner party where one of our hosts cannot consume any salt, due to severe migraines. Talk about a difficult thing to give up! He’s had to stop eating meat and cheese because of their salt levels, and other things you’d never think of like spinach. I suppose you could say restrictions breed creativity: when salt was taken out of the picture, I started focusing on other ways to add flavor to the dish. Now, that’s not to say I only look to add flavor through salt–but a pinch of salt certainly can help brighten up a dish. My final product was this apple farro salad with arugula, dried cherries and toasted cashews. Each element brought so much flavor and depth that I didn’t end up missing salt one bit.
Have you tried farro yet? I try not to feature too many obscure ingredients here, since I want all of my recipes to be approachable; but since I now see farro in the aisles of Trader Joe’s, I’m hoping it’s mainstream enough that most people can find it easily. Farro is one of my favorite grains to cook with now. It’s nutty like brown rice, but it’s plumper and cooks in just 10 minutes. With a nice flavor on its own, I thought it would be a great base for this fruit and nut salad. The salad ended up having a nice tart sweetness from the apples and cherries, a peppery bite from the arugula, and a meaty crunch from the toasted cashews.
I ended up making two different dressings for this salad, so it’s up to you which to make. The primary dressing was a tangy honey mustard, which added some lovely sweetness to the dish. But since dijon mustard has sodium (giving up all salt is so much harder than you’d think), I also made a simple lemon dressing for our host.
This salad comes together so easily and tastes great at room temperature–in fact, I prefer it at room temperature so that the arugula doesn’t wilt. It’s perfect to bring to a dinner party, barbecue or potluck and is sure to be a hit with everyone. And if you’re lucky enough to not get migraines from salt, feel free to add a little pinch!
- 1.5 cups uncooked farro
- ½ an apple, cut into bite-size pieces (I used a Pink Lady)
- ⅓ cup toasted cashews
- ⅓ cup dried cherries
- 2 large handfuls arugula
- For the honey mustard dressing:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- For the lemon dressing:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of half a lemon
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Cook farro according to package instructions, then let cool for a couple of minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients. Whisk dressing ingredients together and toss into the salad. Serve at room temperature.
Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says
What a beautiful salad and creative workaround on the sodium element 😉 — I know what you mean, I am quite the devotee myself and well, I think it’s a chef’s best friend – just one of those auto reflex flavor enhancers (and yes, good too). This salad carries its own depth – what a great use of textures and flavors with the sweet notes. citrus and peppery arugula. Full of nutritious ingredients and lovely to look at too. Yes, farro, isn’t it great? Love the chewy bits :).
Thanks so much, Kelly! The sweetness paired with the arugula was definitely an attempt to mask the lack of salt, and luckily I think it worked!
Julia, your salad was so tasty and it presented beautifully as well! I loved the variety of textures: crunchy cashews, chewy dried cherries, and the words that come to mind when I think of the farro are full-bodied and meaty, of all things! An the dressing really pulled all those flavors together. So glad that you were adventurous enough to take on the no-salt, vegan challenge!
I’m so glad you’re a fan of farro now! It’s got such a great texture and is so easy to cook – I’ll cook it again for you soon!
It certainly was a hit with everyone in our dinner party. I’m programmed to like just about anything that’s got dried cherries and cashews, but this was especially good with the complements you chose. The arugula and the apple added their own character. But the real eye-opener for me was the farro. It’s got a great taste and texture. Is it too much to imagine that there’s a nutritional benefit to boot?
I knew you were already a cherry and cashew fan from our favorite cookies! Oddly enough, that was how I got the idea to pair them together again. Who says you can’t get salad inspiration from a cookie? 😉
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
This is a lovely salad, Julia. I’m a big farro fan and mixing it with fruit, nuts and arugala sounds just delicious. My vote is for the honey mustard dressing!
I’m a big fan of the honey mustard dressing too, Geraldine! Though the lemon option is good if you’re serving vegans, and it gives a nice punch of citrus notes. I’m glad you’re a farro fan too!
Katie @ Whole Nourishment says
You’re so right, restrictions do breed creativity. What a great light grain salad, perfect for a spring picnic on a sunny day. Loving the Dijon dressing and dried cherries.
A spring picnic on a sunny day sounds lovely, Katie! If it ever warms up here, I’d love to do that 🙂 And you’re right – this would be great to bring to an event like that – it packs easily and tastes great at room temperature.
kristina @ love & zest says
yes yes yes, and with the sight of those tart cherries my mouth is now watering.
Thanks, Kristina! I am pretty obsessed with dried cherries too 🙂
Amanda Paa says
wow, no salt is a difficult restriction. amen to you for putting all these flavors to you that created just the punch without it! and i’m sure the textures were so lovely together – the crunch of the apples, chew of the farrow and softness of the arugula. and what a pretty salad to have sitting on the dinner table. xo
Thank you, Amanda! Yes, I now have a greater appreciation for people who are dealing with food restrictions. You’re the pro on that topic! I love the chewy farro too. Xo
Oh my gosh, I would have never even thought of all the things salt is secretly in, spinach?!! I was just thinking the other day how I much prefer salt over sweet and probably eat way more salt than I ever should, haha! This salad looks like it is packing with so many delicious ingredients though, so I’m sure you can’t even tell there is no salt added 🙂
Thanks, Izzy! And yes, not eating salt would be so difficult. I don’t know if I would have the will power to avoid so many of my favorite foods!
Traci | Vanilla And Bean says
Oh, my, Julia! Love the flavors your assembled here, and your salty work-around. I think i’d be inclined to go for the honey mustard dressing, just for the sweetness and to balance the arugula. And farro, you know was just recently added to my pantry too. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a sale because it gets pricy! It is so good and nutty! Love it! Thank you for this, Julia!
Thank you, Traci! If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you should definitely try out their farro – from what I can remember it’s a good price (and only takes 10 minutes to cook!). And I love the honey mustard dressing too 🙂
Well, this is certainly the best thing I possibly could have made with the random assortment of things in my house right now! What a lovely, earthy, tangy salad, Julia! I swapped out the arugula and instead sauteed a wilting bag of farmer’s market spinach, which was both delicious and efficient, ha.
Thanks for saving me from a dinner of cheese and crackers!
Yay! I am so glad you liked it! I love when cleaning out the fridge leads to delicious meals 🙂 Though a dinner of cheese and crackers doesn’t sound too bad either!