Beet and Leek Farro Salad with Spiced Vinaigrette

My last post highlighted the December/January Cook the Books selectionFeast of Sorrow by Crystal King.

I felt like I got bogged down in some of the cruelty and indulgences of the novel and did not allow  myself to be inspired by the food.

Thrasius’ tale is one of inspiration as well as King creates a character that triumphs against many odds and truly has the luck of the gods with him during his life journey.  Born a slave in ancient Rome, Thrasius’ cunning and talent in the kitchen allowed him to not only survive, but to also prosper.  Despite all the pain and suffering that is around him, he finds love and happiness ultimately.

In honor of his kitchen wisdom and genius, I decided to make a winter salad based on one of his creations:

After we sliced up the rest of the vegetables, I showed Apicius one of the recipes I had in mind, beet leaves stuffed with a mixture of chopped leeks, coriander, cumin, raisins, bound together with a bit of flour and water.  Together we tied the leaves into small bundles,which would be boiled when it was closer to the dinner hour.  At the evening’s convivium, they would be served in a sauce of liquamen, oil and vinegar.  (46)

The dish is referenced again later in the book as an opening for Part III and is taken directly from ancient texts:


Chop leeks, coriander, (mix with) cumin, raisins, and flour.  Put the mixture in the middle (of the beet leaves); tie up and (boil).  Serve in a sauce of liquamen, oil and vinegar.

—Book 3.11, Vegetable Dishes
On Cookery, Apicius

From these two references, I decided to create a salad using the flavors described.  I added farro, an ancient grain, that Thrasius would have also had in his larder.

Make the dressing first:

Spiced Vinaigrette

from Bon Appétit

Use this dressing on any salad or drizzle on grilled chicken.


  • 1 t. coriander seeds
  • 1 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 t. fennel seeds
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper


  1. Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Place toasted spices in a spice blender and grind.
  3. Place ground spices in a bowl with vinegar and mustard; whisk together.   Drizzle in olive oil while whisking to incorporate.   Season with salt and pepper.

Set dressing aside while you assemble the salad.


Beet and Leek Farro Salad with Spiced Vinaigrette


This recipe combines an ancient grain with beets, beet greens, leeks and herbs.


  • 4 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. farro
  • 2 t. sea salt
  • 1 lb. beets, roasted, peeled and sliced (about 3 beets)
  • remaining beet greens, chopped
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped (almost a pound; my leeks were quite small)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. jumbo golden raisins
  • 1/8 c. chopped parsley leaves
  • Spiced Vinaigrette
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Add salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.  (While farro is cooking, roast beets if you need to.)
  2. Heat olive oil in a small skillet and saute leeks until limp.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  3. Add the roasted sliced beets, chopped beet greens, sauted leeks, raisins and parsley to the farro.  Toss to combine.
  4. Toss with the Spiced Vinaigrette.  Serve.  (Salad is better the next day.)   Re-season if needed with salt and pepper.

Yield: 6-8

This ancient inspired recipe is much better than the “authentic” honey cakes I made for the last Feast of Sorrow post.  I don’t know if Thrasius would have served this to Apicius as a gustatio  and if Apicius would have approved; however, in our house, this salad will appear again.

I am linking up with Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking.

I am the host for this round of Cook the Books.  You can read the announcement post here.   You still have a bit of time to participate.  The deadline for Feast of Sorrow is January 31, 2018.  Anyone can join in by reading the current selection, preparing a dish inspired by its contents, and writing about it. Let me know when your entry post is up by commenting on this post and/or sending me an email at


New to Cook the Books? Membership is open to anyone that wants to participate.  Check out our About and Guidelines pages or leave a question in the comments on this post.

If you’ve run out of time to participate this month, please note that Simona (bricriole) is hosting The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie for February/March.


Look for her announcement post soon at Cook the Books.  If you like historical fiction, this novel promises another excellent read, set during the time of discovery and Cortés’ travels to the New World.






I’m again linking up with January’s Foodies Read.

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