a fresh look at barley: a deliciously grainy salad with mint & feta cheese

cooking minette's barley salad with mint and feta cheese

i’ve always thought of barley in terms of a soup ingredient, as in the thick and creamy barley soups my grandma used to make on cold winter nights. she cooked the barley for so long it almost melted into the soup before folding in freshly chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon juice (or a small spoon of red wine vinegar). once in a while, just to make it extra delicious, she would also add a dollop of cream or a small chunk of sweet butter (come to think of it, i’ll have to make barley soup to share here soon). the other day i was exploring one of our local korean markets, walking down the aisles like a kid in the candy store when i came upon the huge selection of grains and beans: many varieties of rice (including a sweet brown rice i’ll be exploring soon), mung beans, red beans, and to my surprise,  a lot of barley in small & large packages, whole, rolled, organic, and not. the package i finally settled on has a lovely picture of fluffy barley in a bowl served like rice. last night I finally had the opportunity to make the salad i’ve been imagining since i brought home my bag of barley. i cooked it until it was just tender with a nice bite to it, and the rest of the salad came together easily based around ingredients i had on hand. it tasted just as I had imagined it would: chewy, grainy, fresh, and super satisfying-go ahead, try it-you won’t be disappointed!

ingredients for  4-6 servings of barley lentil salad:

cooking minette's barley rice salad

  • 1/2 cup small lentils
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 small shallot (or about 1 tbs finely minced)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (set aside a few smaller leaves)
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turkish red chili (pul biber) or red pepper flakes
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice (or sherry vinegar)
  • 3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup french feta cheese (crumbled)

rinse the barley in cold water, then cook (simmer) in a medium saucepan with plenty of water for about 30 minutes until tender (but still with a bite to it). cook lentils the same way, until tender and fully cooked. drain both grains and add to a bowl while still hot. add oil, shallots, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, and cumin. stir well, and allow it to cool off. when cool, add fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes, stir, then add feta cheese and stir again. taste and adjust seasoning to your taste, sprinkle with fresh mint leaves, then serve.

barley and lentil salad

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