Summer is just about over (Boohoo) but the days are still long and hot (yay). So who wants to cook a hot meal? Not me. Filling salads are my go-to for hot days. I made this NY Times inspired Farro, Beets, and Feta Salad over the Labor Day weekend and got rave reviews and requests to share the recipe. So, check out the easy recipe at the end of the article. You can definitely eat this salad all year round! But first I have to share all the wonderful health benefits that you will enjoy while eating it.

What is Farro?

Farro is an ancient whole grain that is not well known but thankfully gaining some popularity along with quinoa. It is chewy like barley, has a slightly nutty flavor and is easy to cook. As a whole grain, it is a complex carbohydrate, rich in fiber and sugar-free. Because it contains more fiber than other popular grains like rice or even quinoa, farro might have even more positive benefits when it comes to digestion and cardiovascular health. It’s also exceptionally high in protein for a grain and supplies more than 10 different vitamins and minerals.

You can’t beat beets

Beets are one of my favorite (if not my favorite) vegetable. These sweet, beautiful, earthy vegetables are not only delicious but incredibly healthy. They are not only chock-full of essential minerals and vitamins, these little beauties also possess powerful phytonutrients with incredible health-boosting properties.

Beets can lower your blood pressure.

Beets are rich in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide – a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels. Several studies have shown that drinking beet juice can lower your blood pressure. Want to get off those blood pressure pills, drink beet juice. The potassium in beets likely also contributes to lower blood pressure.

Beets can increase physical endurance

A study with elite cyclists found that cyclists who drank beet juice could pedal hard 15% longer in a time trial to exhaustion. It takes about 3-5 beets (depending on their size) to get a performance boost. Peak nitrate levels occur 2-3 hours after you eat or drink them. Elite athletes are already on to this approved performance booster.

The brain may function better

As previously mentioned, Nitric oxide relaxes and dilates blood vessels, which increases blood flow to the brain. This could translate into better brain function, especially as we age. One small study of older men and women found that those who ate a high nitrate diet, including beet juice for 2 days had more blood flow (as measured by MRI) to the frontal lobe of their brains – a region of the brain involved in decision making, memory, speech, and some motor skills.

Beets can protect you against chronic inflammatory diseases

Beets are also rich in Betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that may battle free radical and inflammation-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease, arthritis, asthma, and even cancer. Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets its pretty purple color may help protect against certain carcinogens and is being studied for its potential therapeutic role in breast cancer.

Beets help the liver in detoxification

Studies suggest that betaine, an amino acid found in beets can improve liver function.

Beets may improve digestion and keep you regular

Beets are rich in fiber, particularly insoluble fiber which helps reduce the risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.

Don’t forget the beet greens which are also packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, iron, vitamins B1, B6,  and protein.

 

RECIPE:

FARRO, BEETS, BEET GREENS, & FETA CHEESE

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Wash the beets well – root and greens. Cut the greens close to the root but leave about an inch of stem attached to the beetroot
  3. Bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the greens. Blanch for two minutes, and transfer to the ice water. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.
  4. Bring the water back to a boil, and add the farro. Cook according to package directions
  5. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. You can add a little olive oil, salt, and pepper but it is not necessary. Place wrapped beets on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes
  6. While the beets are cooking, make the vinaigrette.  Whisk together red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt, garlic, and mustard. Whisk in the olive oil. Add to the farro.
  7. Peel and dice the beets and add, along with the beet greens, feta cheese, parsley, and walnuts. Toss together, and serve warm or room temperature with a little more cheese sprinkled over the top if you wish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3beets with greens
  • 1cup farro
  • salt, to taste
  • 2tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1small garlic clove, minced
  • 1teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 12cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 12cup walnuts (broken pieces) (optional)
  • 2ounces feta cheese, cubed
  • 14cup chopped parsley

Bon Appetit!