Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Simple barley salad with roasted vegetables, feta and herbs


The background story to this dish?

"Are you home for dinner?"
"Yep - can you please make something healthy?"
"Anything in particular?" (don't say salad, don't say salad, don't say salad)
"Salad?"

Well then. Salad it would be. I was not excited - the idea of tossing together some greens, possibly a tomato or two and calling it dinner was not exactly thrilling - hence my repeating/chanting/praying of don't say salad.

But then I realized he didn't explicitly state what kind of salad he wanted. And thinking outside the greens and tomato salad box, I remembered this salad, then thought of all of my about-to-shrivel-perfect-for-roasting vegetables and the barley I bought the other day because I hadn't eaten it in a while and because it is one of my most favorite grains. On top of that, it's incredibly healthy. And maybe I could smuggle in some some feta or goat's cheese? And toss everything with fresh herbs and some wonderful extra-virgin olive oil we picked up the other day?


Now we're talking. And I was excited.

Still, I wasn't sure whether I should post this - is this really that extravagant? Does one actually need a recipe? Can't I think of something more... special? And it's true - it's not very extravagant and it's so simple and adaptable that it, in fact, doesn't need a recipe. But it's also such an easy, healthy and seasonal dish that I felt compelled to share it with you. As a reminder. In case you had forgotten how good roasted, market fresh vegetables are served over/with almost anything, especially grains, in this case, barely. You're welcome.

Barley salad with roasted vegetables, feta and herb dressing
This dish couldn't be simpler. Don't be put off by the long cooking/roasting time. You are not watching over the stove and oven during that time, so you can be doing other things. This is a great dish to make ahead and bring to work or a picnic. Lasts for at least two days, covered, in the fridge - just remove it  before serving, let it come back to room temperature and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.

Also: Reasons to love barley (and other whole grains)? Well, it's an extremely good source of dietary fiber, and its nutrients are said to help lower cholesterol, prevent gallstone, cancer and heart desease, protect against childhood asthma, can benefit arthritis sufferers, can help develop and repair body tissue, and... Well, just have a look - very healthy indeed!

And because it's so versatile, there's really no excuse not to use it - in salads, stews or casseroles. So get cooking.

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The recipe goes something like this: barley (or similar whole grain such as farro, brown rice, couscous)+any vegetables you have on hand and like+crumbly cheese of choice (such as feta, goat or blue cheese)+herbs of you fancy+olive oil. I used:

400g // 2 cups of uncooked pearl barley
1 medium eggplant
1 carrot
3 plum tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 small yellow zucchini
1 green zucchini
1 medium purple onion
Good quality Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, pepper
A small bunch of fresh rosemary
A small bunch of thyme
200g // 7 oz of Feta, crumbled

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Preheat oven to 200°C // 400°F.

Place barley in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running water. After rinsing, place barley in a saucepan and cover with cold water* (there's a more specific guideline that for every 1 cup of barley, you need about 2.5 to 3 cups of water, but I just covered the barley generously). Salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45-60 minutes, until the barley is tender but still has some bite. Rinse briefly under cold water to cool it off.** Place in a large serving bowl.

In the meantime, cut the vegetables into more or less equal, bite-sized pieces - or into any size you prefer. Place on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil (about 3 tablespoons), season with salt and pepper, scatter with herbs. Toss to coat the vegetables evenly.

Roast for around 50 minutes - vegetables and barley should be done around the same time. Let the vegetables cool slightly, then add them to the barley. Add crumbled Feta. Taste and adjust seasoning - it will probably need a little more olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs!

Enjoy!


*A great alternative is to cook the barley in vegetable broth.
**Of course you can also enjoy this warm, if that is what you prefer.


1 comment:

rero said...

ma che buono!! pero' se dovessi fare una foto al mio risultato, non sarebbe troppo invitante!!!
ad occhi chiusi la gustero'....gnam gnam

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