We are easing ourselves back into a healthy eating regimen and slowly releasing ourselves of our cravings for carb-heavy foods like pasta, pizza and bread.

In times like this, I turn to recipes that feature lean proteins, hearty whole grains and a variety of vegetables, like this week’s Oven Baked Salmon with Warm Farro and Roasted Vegetable Salad. This dish is flavorful, easy to prepare, low in fat and calories (under 600 per serving) and is a nutritional powerhouse.

Whole grains are a natural choice for healthy eating, and farro is one of my family’s favorite pasta alternatives. This ancient grain is packed with protein and fiber, and a little goes a long way in promoting a sense of satisfied fullness.

When combined with the salmon, sweet potato, mushrooms and spinach in this dish, a single serving can provide over 30 grams of protein, which is about half of the daily recommended allowance.

Each mouthful of this simple, healthy dinner is filled with flavor — at once sweet, savory, fresh, crispy, creamy, crunchy and even meaty. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Each mouthful of this simple, healthy dinner is filled with flavor — at once sweet, savory, fresh, crispy, creamy, crunchy and even meaty. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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There are three main elements to preparing this dish: the farro; the roasted components; and the salad. I have separated the ingredients into three groups to simplify the process, and most of it can be done simultaneously in under an hour from start to finish.

The first step is to cook the farro, and for added flavor I cook all my grains with a bay leaf in chicken or vegetable stock rather than water. The farro is served warm for this dish, but you can make it several days in advance and reheat it in the microwave before serving. My local source for quality farro is Natural Grocers in Fargo.

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As the farro cooks, you can prep the vegetables and salmon. The sweet potatoes and mushrooms are roasted first for about 15 minutes, and then the salmon fillets are added and roasted with the vegetables until the salmon is cooked through. When ready, the salmon will release droplets of white fat and should appear opaque inside.

Diced sweet potato and a variety of mushrooms are tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and crushed red pepper and then roasted at a high temperature, first alone and then with the salmon fillets. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Diced sweet potato and a variety of mushrooms are tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and crushed red pepper and then roasted at a high temperature, first alone and then with the salmon fillets. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Cook the salmon with the vegetables for 7-9 minutes until droplets of white fat begin to appear and the inside is opaque. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Cook the salmon with the vegetables for 7-9 minutes until droplets of white fat begin to appear and the inside is opaque. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Meanwhile, you can prep the honey-Dijon vinaigrette so that it is ready for the cooked components when they are done. This simple dressing is the perfect complement for the bold flavors of this dish, and consists of pantry staples like olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and lemon juice.

I prepare the dressing in the same bowl I used for the vegetables, and then add two large handfuls of baby spinach leaves and toss until well-coated. I let the spinach sit in the dressing, and once the farro is ready I add it to the spinach immediately so that the heat can help the farro absorb the dressing and gently wilt the spinach leaves.

Two large handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves are tossed with a simple honey-Dijon vinaigrette until well-coated. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Two large handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves are tossed with a simple honey-Dijon vinaigrette until well-coated. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The farro is cooked and then added immediately while hot to the dressed spinach. The heat will help the grain to absorb the dressing and gently wilt the spinach leaves. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The farro is cooked and then added immediately while hot to the dressed spinach. The heat will help the grain to absorb the dressing and gently wilt the spinach leaves. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

When the salmon and vegetables come out of the oven, the veggies are tossed in the warm farro mixture along with one thinly sliced shallot. The flavors in this salad are wonderful — each mouthful is at once sweet, savory, fresh, crispy, creamy, crunchy and even meaty, thanks to the variety of mushrooms included.

I pile the warm farro salad on each plate and top it with a fillet of roasted salmon for a simple dish that is filled with inviting color, bold flavor and delicious nutrition.

The farro is cooked and then added immediately while hot to the dressed spinach. The heat will help the grain to absorb the dressing and gently wilt the spinach leaves. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The farro is cooked and then added immediately while hot to the dressed spinach. The heat will help the grain to absorb the dressing and gently wilt the spinach leaves. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Oven Baked Salmon with Warm Farro and Roasted Vegetable Salad

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Serves: 4

Farro ingredients:

1 cup farro

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, or water

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Roasted veggies and salmon ingredients:

1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

8 ounces assorted mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons garlic, minced, divided (about 2 medium sized cloves or 1 large one)

½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

4 salmon fillets, 4 ounces each, skin removed

Farro salad ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 2 large handfuls)

Cooked farro

Roasted sweet potatoes and mushrooms

1 medium shallot, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, or coat with cooking spray.

In medium saucepan, bring stock or water to a boil over high heat. Add farro, bay leaf and salt and bring back to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until farro is tender with just a little crunch, about 30 minutes. Drain the liquid and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days and reheat in microwave before serving, if desired.

As the farro cooks, prepare the sweet potato, mushrooms and salmon. In a large bowl, toss sweet potato and mushrooms with olive oil, crushed red pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt until well-combined. Spread vegetables onto prepared baking sheet in an even layer (save the bowl to use for salad).

Roast for 8 minutes, then toss vegetables and continue cooking until almost tender, about 7-8 more minutes.

Sprinkle remaining teaspoon of garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt over each salmon fillet. When vegetables are ready, tuck each salmon fillet in among the mix and continue roasting until salmon is cooked through, about 7-9 minutes. The salmon will release droplets of white fat once it is cooked and the inside should be opaque. Salmon may be served immediately or refrigerated for up to 3 days.

As salmon bakes, prepare the farro salad. In bowl that was used for vegetables, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon and pepper until well-combined. Add spinach leaves and toss until well-coated.

When the farro is still hot, place over spinach and let sit for a minute or 2 until the spinach begins to wilt, then toss to combine.

When the salmon and vegetables are ready, transfer sweet potatoes and mushrooms to bowl with the farro mixture. Add shallots and toss until well-combined. Salad may be served immediately or refrigerated for up to 5 days.

To serve, spoon a bed of farro salad onto each plate and top with a fillet of salmon.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.