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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red cabbage with roasted asparagus and light pesto dressing: one deliciously {healthy} salad!

when i was growing up my mom used quite a lot of cabbage in her cooking. i remember entering the house and knowing immediately there was cabbage involved with our meal because of the distinct odor it created as it cooked. although it was not a particularly pleasant smell, it somehow created a comforting welcome home feeling i think of fondly. my mom made delicious stuffed cabbage two ways (sweet and savory), spicy borscht soups (which reminds me i need to ask for the recipe and post soon), vegetable stir fries with chunks of almost raw crunchy cabbage, creamy cole slaws, and one of my favorites, red cabbage salad. at the time i doubt we realized how good this vegetable (in all of its forms) is for you-particularly when consumed raw or lightly steamed (good article on health benefits). as we leave winter behind and move towards the warmth and {fresh produce} abundance of summer, i find myself craving lighter, healthier meals that require less cooking. this salad combines leftover oven roasted asparagus with {good for you} shredded red cabbage, diced red bell peppers, flat leaf parsley and avocados covered in a light pesto dressing. it was on the menu last night along with my oven baked chicken, and i can comfortably say that beyond packing incredible flavor, it is also very good for you-this will surely be a staple at our spring/summer table.
in your salad bowl combine:
  • thinly shredded red cabbage
  • sliced avocados
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced red bell peppers
  • small bunch of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • oven roasted asparagus (cut in smaller pieces)
  • for light pesto dressing:
  • 1 large bunch (1 cup or more) of fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup or so extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
blend it all together in a food processor or blender OR use this homemade lemony pesto if you have it, and add a few tbs of lemon juice and olive oil to thin it out. you will have dressing leftover-refrigerate for later use.
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