I think everyone has a top 10 or 20 list of things they make over and over. The kind of dishes that are so good, so easy, so reliable that they become woven into your culinary fabric as a favorite. This barley salad is one of ours. It's light, fresh, fast, easy, healthy and vegetarian-friendly. I've made it for casual lunches, quick dinners and pot lucks. It's simple enough that I can remember the ingredients while standing in the produce aisle looking for inspiration.
In the summer, it's really good with heirloom tomatoes. But when those aren't available, we use cherry tomatoes. Sometimes we add the feta, sometimes not. Sometimes we also toss in some grilled chicken chunks to add some protein.
One note of warning. My husband cracked a tooth on what were labeled pitted Kalamata olives. So now I always make sure to slice each one in half just to make sure.
1 cup pearled barley
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half
one pint red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
four handfuls baby arugula, torn or snipped like herbs with kitchen shears
1/4 cup basil, chopped
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add barley. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Strain. Rinse under cold water and drain completely.
Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine or whisk in a bowl.
Pour half the dressing over the drained and cooled barley. Stir to coat.
Stir in the rest of the salad ingredients and combine well. Add as much of the rest of the dressing as you like and stir well again. Top with feta, if using.
Can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated.
Adapted from the wonderful Australian food magazine, Delicious, Feb. 2005 issue.