This little ditty is something I whipped up with some leftover cooked barley from a Cooking Matters class I taught last week. It was the first class of a six week session and was all about healthy cooking basics, with a focus on the My Plate diet recommendations. Given that My Plate recommends a diet that leans heavily towards whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and looks to dairy and lean protiens (meats) to play a lesser role, I wanted to cook a meal with our students that pretty well reflected this thinking.
We made a delicious Barley Jambalaya which consists mainly of a whole grain (the barley) as well as some great veggies like onion, tomatoes, celery, and bell peppers, with a few small pieces of chicken sausage thrown in to keep any devout meat lovers from dismissing the dish out-of-hand. We didn't need all the cooked barley, so I brought some home to repurpose in another way later in the week and told the class that I'd share with them what I made as inspiration for what they might make with the barley that they would be taking home that night in their grocery bag from class.
A few days passed before inspiration struck, and it came oddly enough just as I was slipping my hand under the skin off a spatchcocked chicken to deposit some herb butter there before roasting. The chicken (which I'll post soon) was being made with a compound butter made with rosemary, roasted garlic and preserved lemon, so I started thinking of making a barley salad with similar middle eastern flavors to go with. A quick tour through my fridge and pantry turned up the following which were all used to transform my container of fairly bland barley into a super tasty and really healthy side salad. There were carrots, onion, almonds, pistachios, more preserved lemon, fresh lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and a hearty shake of ras-el-hanout (a middle eastern spice blend consisting of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili). In a word, there was a lot of YUM destined for this salad.
Being able to toss this together on a whim is a perfect example of why I like to keep a container of cooked grains on hand, and why I implore all my CM student to do the same. By cooking up a pot of barley, or quinoa, or wheatberries at weekend, I am never more than a couple minutes away from a hearty breakfast, an easy side-dish, or a quick afternoon snack. In the morning, any of these grains can be eaten just like oatmeal, spoon some into a bowl and nuke it, then top with some fruits and nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup et voila!
To be honest, when making this dish I wasn't measuring out ingredients, rather I just tossed stuff by the pinch or handful into the bowl with the barley, but this "recipe" represents my best guess at what the measurements were. No worries though, a little deviation one way or the other will still deliver a great tasting dish. Have fun!
Cheers – Steve
- 3 cups cooked barley (prepared per the instructions on the package)
- 1 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup pistachios
- 1/2 preserved lemon, finely minced
- 1/3 cup EVOO
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 onion, diced
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout (or more to taste)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Pour a slick of the oil in the bottom of a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the diced onion and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent and the carrot has just started to soften. remove the onion and carrots to a bowl and olace the pan back over the heat. Add the nuts and toast, stirring ocassionally for about 3-4 minutes, then add in the barley, breaking up any large, cold chunks, and cook until heated through.
- Pour the barley and nuts into a large mixing bowl, add the carrots and onions, and the rest of the ingredients. Toss well to incorporate, then check for seasoning adding more lemon juice, and salt and pepper as needed. Eat warm or at room temperature.