Raw Beet and Farro Salad with Sweet Basil Vinaigrette

Tastebuds are so weird. I'm fascinated by how often tastebuds, and even allergies, can change and adapt simply with time and maturity. Between birth and about age five I was allergic to strawberries. Now? I could eat an entire basket in one sitting. Did I wake up one day knowing I was no longer allergic? How could my mother be comfortable letting me test that? I should really have a conversation with her...

I'm no longer allergic to anything (except maybe rude people and bad drivers) but I sure as hell have some discriminatory tastebuds. I'm not picky by any means, but I do have a few things I have always been disgusted by: olives, smoked salmon, oatmeal, and goat cheese.

*Quick side note - I don't understand why people ask me "If you don't like olives, do you also not like pickles?" I get that olives are pickled and salty, but to me they do not taste the same. Are they really that similar? I could eat pickle after pickle, but an olive? I can't even smell them without gagging...

Anyway, I always get super bummed by the items my tastebuds have deemed unworthy of consumption. I find myself about once a quarter craving oatmeal, attempting a new approach at it, and ultimately failing to create anything remotely appetizing. I drool over all of the creative recipes, pretty bowls, and cozy combinations that fellow bloggers and chefs create. Two weekends ago we were in NYC, where Ricky and two of our friends enjoyed Sadelle's bagels (so good, but be prepared to spend $$ on a relatively small bagel). I was pretty jealous of how delicious their lox and schmear looked, but I can't get past the smokiness of the fish...

The only time I've ever enjoyed goat cheese was on a pizza about 3 years ago in college. Then, about 2 months ago I was in Lake Tahoe with some family where we ordered a roasted red pepper and goat cheese pizza. I didn't mind it. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it. But then about 6 weeks ago Ricky and I were walking around Main Street in Santa Monica looking for a quick lunch and, out of nowhere, I had the BIGGEST craving for goat cheese. What?! Mind you, I've spit goat cheese out at a party before. In front of people. No shame.

This was so strange, but I really wanted to run with it because I was excited to see if this was for real or whether my tastebuds were playing a cruel "oatmeal" trick on me. We popped into a little spot called Ashland Hill, known for it's selection of beers and cute little outdoor patio. We ordered some beers and the beet & goat cheese salad, and patiently waited for the big moment. My big moment with goat cheese.

Guys, it was love. Love at first bite. What have I been doing all these years? Living a sorrowful, cheese-less existence, apparently. Since that glorious day, I've been consuming any goat cheese I can get my hands on: a tasty little veggie sandwich from a bistro in Williamsburg, as part of a beautiful cheese plate, and in this salad. A little homage to the Ashland Hill item that changed me forever.

This salad is perfect for a light summer meal, and makes well ahead of time if you are prepping for a party, or just want to have dinner made and ready when you get home. Beets and goat cheese is no new phenomenon, but the sweet basil dressing and tart red pepper add wonderful depth to the classic pair.

Serving Size: 2 light dinners or 4 side salads

Ingredients:

3/4 cup uncooked farro

2 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced

1 small raw beet, shaved*

1.5 cups arugula

1/4 cup goat cheese + more for garnish

2 tablespoons pine nuts

*I used a peeler (be careful!) to thinly slice my beets because the beets I found were tiny. However, I encourage you to use a spiralizer or mandolin. Spiraled beet noodles would be so pretty in this!

For the Basil Dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon finely diced shallot

7-8 basil leaves, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Cook farrow according to package, in salted boiling water. Let stand for 5-10 minutes to cool.

2. While the farro cooks, make basil dressing.

3. Combine all wet ingredients, whisk to emulsify. Add in basil and shallots, and continue to whisk until combined.

4. In a large bowl, add red pepper slices, arugula, goat cheese, and pine nuts. Add in farro, and toss.

5. Add in about 3/4 of the dressing, and toss again to combine.

6. Serve preferred amount (2-4 servings) and garnish with additional basil leaves, goat cheese, pine nuts, and black pepper. Drizzle with remaining dressing and enjoy!