Camping and Hiking Part II, Fruited Farro Salad, and Grilled Za’atar Spiced Chicken with Peppers and Onions

FinishedFarroCherrySaladSummer is in full force and it’s just flying by. Soon the children will go back to school, the wind will take on a decidedly cooler feel, and Fall will be here before we know it—but not yet! There’s still plenty of time for grilling and chilling.

Hot weather makes me crave salads and this Fruited Farro Salad is one of my new favorites. This colorful salad is more savory than sweet, with a perfect balance between the natural sweetness of the fruit and nuts, the herbaceous parsley and crisp celery, and the chewy farro with a tangy dressing. It pairs well with most any food and is particularly nice with barbecued pork, or with your favorite style of chicken…like this Za’atar Spiced, Marinated and Grilled Chicken with Peppers and Onions. These two dishes make a complete meal, and the farro salad lasts for a few days, so leftovers can be used for a light lunch. Check out the easy recipes below for these two versatile and delicious dishes to try.

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we’ve been doing some hiking lately and have managed a hike a week all summer—with the one exception of last week when we were traveling. Hiking in North Georgia is particularly nice right now because the temps are so much cooler than those we have here in the city. Following is the continuation and conclusion of my story about our little adventure camping in the mountains in early June, featuring three more great hiking areas to explore…

Close to the Warwoman Dell recreation area is Black Rock Mountain, a beautiful state park with a visitors center which is situated at the top of the mountain, overlooking the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The area features camping, cabins and hiking trails as well as scenic overlooks with some 80 miles of vistas. The cabins and the tent campsite areas literally hang over the edge of the top of the mountain, and the views are breathtaking. There are RV campsites with hookups by reservation, cabins by reservation and walk-in rustic campsites on a first come, first serve basis. Because we’d just finished our hike at Warwoman Dell when we visited here, we didn’t hike any of the trails, but we did make a note to try renting a cabin here at some point down the road.

The next day our hike was at Tallulah Gorge State Park. I had visited the gorge before from the other side, but hadn’t been to the Interpretive Center or down some of the trails that follow a series of waterfalls from the Center…some of which are quite steep. One of the most spectacular canyons in the eastern U.S., Tallulah Gorge is two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. You can obtain a pass at the Center to go down to the floor of the gorge and cross over it on an 80 foot suspension bridge. On the day we were there, they had given out the limited number of passes available to hike down into the gorge, so we toured some of the waterfalls instead. We walked down 3 different trails and viewed 3 of the numerous waterfalls, but were thwarted from going further by some rather ominous storm clouds moving in. For those who are lucky and adventurous enough to get a pass to go down into the gorge, know that there are around 1099 steps down into, and back out of, the gorge. It’s considered a strenuous hike…especially coming back up. You can loop across the gorge and come out on the other side…if you’re hearty enough to do so. Another day for us, perhaps.

Our last hike on this 4-day trip was up the mountain of Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. Brasstown Bald rises 4,784 feet above sea level and its peak looms half a mile above the surrounding valleys. The observation deck offers a breathtaking view of the mountains’ scenic vistas, which sweep a four state area, and the “Bald” falls under the purview of the U.S. Forest Service.

“You hiked all the way up the mountain?” you ask. Heck no. We drove up most of it to the Forest Service Park Ranger parking area, took our picture with Smokey the Bear like any other good tourists would, then hiked the paved and steep 1/2 mile trail to the summit of the Bald where the Visitor’s Center and lookout station are located. For those who don’t wish to hike the trail, there’s a free shuttle that will take you to the summit.

In addition to being able to view four states from the Bald on a clear day, the weather at the summit of Georgia’s tallest mountain is very different from the rest of Georgia. The temperatures are 5-10° F cooler than the rest of the state, and at any time, fog, mist, and storms may unexpectedly move in and obscure the view. These weather conditions help to contribute to the variety of plants and wildlife found on the forested slopes of Brasstown Bald Mountain, and we were able to see spring wildflowers, mountain laurel, azalea and ferns all the way up the trail. It’s a great place to visit in the summer because the temperatures have never exceeded 84° F. The Forest Service has an interpretive center inside the Visitor’s Center, along with a little theater that plays a short film on the history and nature of Brasstown Bald. You can walk up the short flight of stairs to the observation decks and see north, south, east and west, with maps to view that show you what you’re seeing. It’s quite charming and very beautiful.

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On the last day of our camping/husband’s birthday trip, we experienced a very scary thunderstorm during the night that had us hurriedly packing up our tent and heading home the next day. Fortunately, we have a great tent with a rain fly, and were camped in a secluded spot during the storm. And most fortunate of all, there wasn’t any significant wind or hail involved and our tent didn’t leak, but the lightning was frequent and the torrential rain was relentless. All in all, we had a great time and were lucky that the weather held for us as long as it did, since scattered thunderstorms are the norm here this time of year.

I’ll share more hiking adventures soon, but for now let’s get back to the food! Being outdoors makes me really hungry and this easy meal is a tasty and healthy way finish to your day after hitting the trails, or for dinner any time. I hope you all are having a lovely summer so far…or if you’re in the southern hemisphere, a mild winter. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy these two dishes.

Fruited Farro Salad
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light’s Farro, Cherry and Walnut Salad
Makes 8 Servings

5 cups water
1 1/2 cups uncooked farro
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 pound sweet cherries, pitted and halved (about 2 cups) or an equal amount of red seedless grapes, halved
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
additional freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add farro and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boiling water; cook 15 minutes or until al dente. Drain; cool at room temperature, about 15 minutes. Combine farro, cherries or grapes, celery, walnuts, and parsley in a large bowl.

Combine lemon juice, mustard, honey, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour dressing over farro mixture; toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and add a little more pepper if needed.

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45 thoughts on “Camping and Hiking Part II, Fruited Farro Salad, and Grilled Za’atar Spiced Chicken with Peppers and Onions

    • How lovely, Hollis! We should try that sometime. We do often go up into the mountains for a picnic, but usually not quite that far…though it really isn’t that far since it’s such a straight shot. That was my first look at Black Rock Mountain. It’s a cool place! 🙂

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  1. You certainly do have some lovely country to hike through and explore, Betsy. We haven’t many hills, let alone mountains here on the edge of the Plains. I think it wonderful that you’ve made time for a hike per week. It’s a great way to relax and recharge. Your farro salad sounds really delicious. I love finding something unexpected in a salad, like the sweet cherries in yours. This was such a nice post, Betsy, and your photos were wonderful.

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    • Thank you, John, for such wonderful comments! Yes we are blessed to have the mountains so close by. And since we’ve started hiking, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of trails around Atlanta that aren’t in the mountains, but really beautiful, too. I’ll share some of those in future posts. I thought of you with this farro salad recipe and the cherries, since I know you have access to local ones. Ours have to travel a way to get to us, but they have been plentiful and cheaper this year, so I’ve been able to enjoy! 🙂

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    • Hi Norma! The first farro salad I tasted that I’d like to recreate had cooked mushrooms, tomatoes, parsley, basil and it was lovely. This fruited version is different but quite a nice and refreshing combo and we can’t decide if we like cherries or grapes better. You live in cherry territory so I know that would be extra good with local ones.
      I will have some more scenic hikes coming soon. 🙂

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    • Hey Geni, and thanks for your kind words about my header…you’re the first to notice it! 🙂 I, too, have been MIA lately. Am trying to remedy it and get around to see everyone. Hope all is well with you!

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  2. I adore farrow too and your salad is gorgeous Betsy. Thanks for sharing your trip with us, it looks and sounds like you had an amazing time (less that terrible thunder and lightening storm). So glad it didn’t mar your time away. Our weather had been strange, not bad but strange! Cool nights, scary storms but fortunately no power outages.

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      • Thank you, Eva! We have some antique old fashioned martini glasses that we use all the time for cocktails, and I decided that changing the color of the drink in this glass works for me right now…it’s a margarita at the moment. I’m planning on having one in just an hour or so! 😉 That’s actually a cardinal flower in our front yard, but it does look tropical…that’s why I thought it would be great for summer. So glad you like it, too! Happy Saturday!

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        • I’m rather particular about martini glasses, most I find just don’t have the same attention to proportions. My fav’s are the Waterford Marquis Vintage Glasses (not the oversized) which seam very similar to yours!

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    • Glad to hear that you haven’t had any power outtages. We’ve had very cool (for us in August) weather this past week. We went hiking again today and it was very nice. I do love this salad and have made it many times this summer. It’s very satisfying!

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  3. Wow – lovely photos and talk about an impressive meal ! You’ve outdone yourself ! I haven’t hiked in the longest time – and hiking is such a wonderful way to get exercise, not to mention the joy you must feel in all those beautiful natural surroundings. You go girl !!

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  4. You live in such a beautiful place – what a wonderful summer hiking every week! Awesome!
    Your farro salad looks heavenly! Not sure we get farro here but we do get barley and I will definitely be making a barley salad ASAP! Our winter hasn’t been at all bad so there is sure to be a hot day and evening soon for a salad. Think I could eat the salad all on its own with no other accompaniments.
    Have a super week Betsy.
    🙂 Mandy xo
    PS. Your header pic is so striking. x

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    • Hi Mandy, and thank you for your kind comments. We do live in a place with some lovely natural resources, it’s true. And we’ve really enjoyed hiking lately. We’ve had the farro salad for lunch by itself many a day. It’s quite filling and satisfying. And thank you so much for your very nice compliment on my header! 🙂 Hope you are doing well and have a great week.

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  5. Your farro salad looks delicious made with fruits. I can just imagine the flavors, a great summer salad. What great hiking adventures. It wants me to put on my boots and go.

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    • Thank you Gerlinde, I’m so glad you like the salad. Love your name, BTW! You should put your boots on and go, by all means! We’ve become addicted to hiking now, and so look forward to the next one. We want to extend our hikes to more and more miles. Wish we could do more than one a week, but we have to work. 🙂

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  6. Pingback: Happenings, Fresh Corn Frittata and Some Potent Cherries | bits and breadcrumbs

  7. Pingback: Cooling Comforts: Roasted Mushroom and Tomato Farro Salad | bits and breadcrumbs

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