Barley Salad

July 8, 2012

Have you ever cooked with barley before? If yes, what is your favourite barley recipe?

As much as I adore quinoa, and despite the imbalanced number of recipes involving quinoa posted thus far on this blog, I do eat a variety of other whole grains! The first time I cooked barley was for the salad featured in this post, and I have since made this recipe many times, usually in the summer to accompany grilled meat.

This healthy yet tasty salad comes from Leslie Beck’s “Foods that Fight Disease – A Nutrition Guide to Staying Healthy for Life” and can easily be modified to accommodate the vegetables you have on hand and your specific taste preferences. The original recipe calls for pot barley, grated carrots, sliced black olives, chopped capers, and green onions (in keeping with yesterday’s green onion theme!). I am not a huge fan of black olives or capers (though I don’t mind them in this particular salad), so today I omitted those and I didn’t feel it needed anything to replace the missing ingredients. Still, next time I may add some roasted red pepper as I think the colour, texture and taste would be a perfect fit, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I just think roasted red pepper takes any dish to the next level. Update: Today I added chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese in addition to the roasted red pepper to the leftovers from yesterday, and it was divine!

The main reason I do not make anything with barley very often is that it takes approximately one hour to cook. Compare that to quinoa’s cooking time of 10 – 15 minutes, and it quickly becomes obvious why quinoa is a staple in my kitchen. Still, I think it is important to incorporate a wide variety of whole grains into our diets and it is well worth the effort to make the time to prepare barley and other longer-cooking whole grains. I am now officially making it my personal goal to prepare barley-based meals once a week, and I challenge you to do the same!

Before I provide you with the recipe, here are some interesting facts about barley (source: Leslie Beck’s website):

  1. Barley is more flavourful and has a chewier texture than white rice, with a more subtle flavour than brown rice.
  2. Barley is versatile: like oats, it is an excellent source of soluble fibre, which can help in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
  3. Hulled barley or “whole grain” barley has only the outer husk (hull) removed and is the most nutritious form of barley, since the bran and germ are left intact. It may not be as widely available as other barley types, but its superior nutrient content makes it worth seeking out.
  4. Pot (Scotch) barley Pot barley is husked and coarsely ground.  It is polished like pearl barley, but to a lesser extent, so the kernals are less refined, retaining more of the bran layer than pearled. The kernals are not as small as pearl barley, so pot barley takes a little longer to cook.
  5. Pearl barley Barley kernels are polished (pearled) to remove the double outer hull and the bran layer, which also removes much of the nutrients. Polishing the kernals produces uniform, ivory-coloured granules. Like white rice, this process makes the kernals less nutritious but faster to cook.

Barley Salad
(from Leslie Beck’s “Foods that Fight Disease – A Nutrition Guide to Staying Healthy for Life”

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup dry white wine (or orange juice is excellent, too!)

1 cup pot barley

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar (though I have omitted this in the past and the salad still tasted excellent)

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (or table salt will do)

2 carrots, shredded

1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives

2 tbsp capers (whole or chopped)

2 green onions, finely sliced

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, bring water and wine (or orange juice) to a boil. Add barley; cover and simmer for 1 hour or until barley is tender. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid, and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt.

Combine barley with carrots, olives, capers, and onions. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, tossing to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Per 3/4 cup serving: 192 cal, 4 g pro, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 30 g carb, 4 g fibre, 0 mg chol, 444 mg sodium

Excellent source of: vitamin A

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Did you know that 100 g of cucumbers provides just 15 calories and are a good source of potassium!? Furthermore, cucumber peels are a good source of dietary fibre. All three of my children LOVE cucumber slices and so I always add plenty to my garden salads to ensure some remain for myself! Another way I enjoy cucumbers is in a cucumber salad, especially in the summer. However, it also makes a great accompaniment to spicy dishes, as pictured below.

First, you must thinly slice the cucumber. Luckily, I have a mandolin slicer, which makes it quick and easy to slice the cucumber very thinly. If you don’t own one of these I highly recommend acquiring one, as it will be very useful in many of my future posts!

Next, you prepare the dressing in a medium-sized bowl. I never measure the ingredients, so these are approximate and can be adjusted to your taste preferences.

2-3 Tbsp kefir (I sometimes use greek yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream instead)

2 tsp grapeseed oil (olive oil also works well in this recipe)

1 tsp white balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar are good substitutes)

1 tsp dijon mustard

1-2 tsp fresh or frozen dill, finely chopped (I always have some in my freezer that I’ve pre-chopped and store in an airtight container)

salt & pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together, add the sliced cucumbers, add 1 garlic clove and 1/2 a medium onion, both finely chopped, and toss. It is best to let the salad sit in the fridge for a short while, so the cucumbers can absorb the dressing a little, however I often do not have this luxury and serve it immediately instead.

What is kefir, you ask?! I’ll answer that in my next post!

What’s your favourite way to eat cucumbers?

Here is my absolute favourite salad dressing. It goes great with garden salads, bean salads, and quinoa salads, or just about any other salad you like!

You will need a dressing shaker, or large glass jar with lid, or an empty store-bought salad dressing bottle. Once you fill it with all the ingredients just give it a good shake and store in the fridge.

1 part grapeseed oil

1 part white balsamic vinegar

dijon mustard to your liking

liquid honey to your liking

Here are the measurements I use:

120 ml grapeseed oil (the one sold at No Frills is substantially cheaper than anywhere else)

120 ml white balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp dijon mustard (I use “Maille”, which you can find in most grocery stores. I purchase mine at Costco because it is much cheaper, but it is of course also a much larger jar. But I use dijon mustard in a lot of my cooking, so it goes quickly.)

2 tbsp liquid honey

What’s your favourite salad dressing?!