22 May 2013

Barley and Parsley Salad

Yesterday was not a day  you wanted to be cooking in a small apartment at 425 degrees. The only reason I heated my oven was to roast some asparagus for 15 minutes; everything else was to be done on the stove top. And so I found the perfect opportunity to make this salad I've been eying.

Despite my chef crush on Yotam Ottolenghi, I found out about this salad from the lovely Katie. And because its two stars, barley and parsley, are relatively cheap and non-delicate, one may easily overlook the recipe by its name. But I assure you, you don't want to do that. It's a filling, sharp, clean and energizing meal on its own, or a great side in smaller divisions, served with a vegetable and piece of fish or meat.

As the barley cooks, you can prep the rest of the salad components, then you drain and slightly cool the barley and clean up the work station, toss and enjoy.

While Mr. Ottolenghi's recipe is noted to be more about the parsley than the barley, since I was serving this at dinner, I wanted it to be more of a grain salad. Also, I took it as a chance to make a big pot of barley to have on hand for other uses. I also adapted it a bit. I left out the green pepper, za'atar, and subbed chopped toasted almonds for cashews. All in all, his recipe clicked as more of an inspiration than drive for replication, and it was a great way to use up all of the parsley bunch I've been chipping away at.

To get an update on why I should be eating barley without searching the internet, I instead looked on my bookshelf at Alicia Silverstone's Kind Diet vegan cookbook. It was a stroll down memory lane, as I recall posting her pumpkin bread just after I begun this blog. Around a few of the barley recipes in there, Alicia reminds us that barley is great for the skin, feeds friendly bacteria in the intestine, and is also a liver and gallbladder tonic.

Putting olive-oil and cumin-marinated feta on that recipe for health just makes it better. I'll be back in a few days with my rendition on a well-known NY bakery sweet. xo MN

Parsley and Barley Salad
Adapted from Jerusalem
Note: I made adjustments in several places notably doubling the barley and halving the parsley. I account for those changes in this version below. 
1/2 cup pearl barley 
1 cup water + chicken/ or vegetable broth
4 oz feta cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 a large bunch flat-leaf parsley (2-3 bunches), leaves and fine stems, finely chopped
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
3 T almonds lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pearl barley for about 40 minutes, in a combination half water and stock if using, until tender but with a very slight bite. You don't want it mushy or risotto-like. Pour into a fine sieve, shake to remove all the water, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, break feta into rough pieces, mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, tand the cumin. Cover and leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the salad. 
Chop the parsley finely and place in a large serving bowl with the green onions, garlic, almonds, lemon juice,  remaining olive oil, and finally, the cooked barley. Mix together well and season with salt and more lemon/oil if desired. Top with the marinated feta.
Serves 2-4.

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