I’ve had this for lunch three times this week and I’m just … not sick of it. Isn’t that amazing? I had a women’s leadership lunch at work on Tuesday and, as I selected a turkey avocado wrap off a very boring sandwich tray, I was really sad I wasn’t chowing down on this salad. (Should I emphasize again how often I think about food? I daydream about it, but even I cannot muster dreams of soggy turkey avocado wraps.) More than anything else, this salad tastes fresh — the combination of mint, parsley, and lemon juice make for a very green, bright combination of flavors. The onions and cucumbers keep things snappy and crunchy, and the feta brings the salt. But the barley! The barley! It would probably be terrible all by itself. It’s a little too hard and would probably feel both under- and over-cooked. But mixed in with the dressing and the vegetables, it’s almost meat-y. It really gives the salad substance.
Let’s all get on the same page — this salad requires very little cooking. You just have to make the barley, which is pretty fool-proof because it’s really in the salad for texture and bulk, so you won’t notice if it doesn’t come out perfectly. Everything else is just chopping and mixing! Can I suggest that you invest in a good knife before you embark on this adventure, though? A good knife makes cooking a bajillion times more enjoyable. (And they don’t have to be a big investment — I use this one on the reg and love it!)
Note: Recipes that use obscure ingredients are totally annoying. Why should I invest in $8 worth of some obscure spice for a salad? Well, folks, sumac might sound like that kind of ingredient, but I really recommend you get some. It’s a tangy spice I first learned about from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, and I totally love it. I use sumac in salad dressings when I want something sour, but don’t want to drown the salad in either vinegar or lemon juice. If you’re looking for ways to use up your sumac, I suggest anything by Yotam. He’s a genius of flavor profiles. To my NYC readers, you can get sumac at Dual Specialty, the Indian spice store on First Avenue between 5th and 6th in Manhattan, or at Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Everyone else, tough luck. Just kidding. You can get it on amazon.
- 1 T. olive oil
- ¾ cup barley (or any carb base you like -- the original recipe calls for bulgar, which is wonderful in this salad, but quinoa, cous cous, or rice all work, too)
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cucumber, chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 bunch minced fresh Italian parsley
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
- ⅓ red onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup feta (2 ounces), chopped
- Mediterranean dressing, recipe below
- Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add a few teaspoons of oil and when hot, add the barley; stirring it frequently, toast it for 1-2 minutes. To the barley, add 1½ cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the water is evaporated and tender. Fluff with a fork and set aside; cool to room temperature.
- In a mixing bowl (or your salad serving bowl), add the barley, cucumbers, tomatoes, Italian parsley, mint, green onions, red onion, garlic, and cubed feta. (I started chopping the veggies while the barley cooked and cooled and was done just as the barley was cool enough to go in the salad. Zing! Perfect timing!) Add the dressing and gently toss everything together. Serve immediately, or refrigerate over night to let the flavors all mellow together.
- *Mediterranean Dressing* Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sumac (see note above), and the juice from 1 lemon in a lidded jar or small bowl and combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.