September 13th, 2012
There’s something about the chill in fall air that inspires me to cook with more varied grains. Perhaps I was a squirrel in a past life? Or maybe it’s that sturdy whole grains signify a move towards cold-weather cooking. (Both?) As I cleaned and reorganized my pantry last weekend, I excitedly pulled out forgotten jars of barley and farro. It’s time I thought to myself.
Always a summer girl, though, my initial excitement quickly soured to apathy. It’s not fall yet, not cold enough for these. The day after being reunited with my bulk whole grains, I pushed them aside for the last heirloom tomatoes and cobs of corn. Then, that evening, as I settled on my deck for a post-dinner glass of (summery) rose, the chill set in.
What the hell? It’s freezing!
I ignored the nippy breeze spitefully pulling up my skin into sharp bumps. (What?! I’m dramatic, get cold easily and was wearing weather inappropriate clothing.) I stubbornly sipped my rose. I’m going to enjoy this chilled wine, damn it. And then I gave up.
I grabbed a sweatshirt, cozied up on the couch with a blanket and made a note to self. Tomorrow night: barley, long sleeves, red wine.
A good night’s sleep appeased the symptoms of my seasonal resentment disorder (can we make that an official affliction?) and reinvigorated my nerdy excitement for whole grains. I felt powerful, like I could embrace the changing weather without betraying what I still consider to be the last days of summer.
I’d move slowly towards fall vegetables, focusing on the bright flavors of fennel, carrot and celery. I’d dress the barley with a tart vinaigrette that would keep the earthy grain from feeling heavy. I’d keep things optimistic with loads of herbs. It would be okay.
And it was.
This is, hands down, a new favorite recipe. I’m proud of all my creations (at least the ones I share with you), but am particularly excited about this one. It hits just the right note for this time of year but, I can assure you, will also endure through the cold months ahead.
Barley is a great whole grain for kids, all toothsome and mild, and the thinly sliced veggies in this salad wilt just right way to be palatable for little ones who only accept soft cooked vegetables. Even non-salad eaters will gobble this, especially the day after you make it (more wilting). At least mine did, and he’s a hard case. They key really is paper thin veggies.
This went perfectly with our pan seared salmon and roasted green beans, but is very versatile. It’ll go with nearly anything, and even makes a great early fall picnic dish. I also paired it with a glass of rose for the adults. Because I’m stubborn like that.
Long live summer!
Simple Herbed Barley Salad
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup pearled barley
1 cup very thinly sliced fennel (use a mandolin for best results)
1 cup very thinly sliced celery, (use a mandolin for best results)
1/2 cup very thinly sliced carrots, (use a mandolin for best results)
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup Italian parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon honey*
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Combine broth, water and barley in a medium pot set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Allow barley to cool until it is at least warm to the touch; you do not want the barley to be hot in step 2.
2. In a large bowl, combine cooked barley, fennel, celery, carrots, celery leaves and parsley; set aside.
3. Whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt, honey (or substitute) and pepper. Pour dressing over barley salad and toss until all of the grains are well coated. Serve immediately or cool more (on the counter or in the refrigerator) before serving. This is wonderful the next day.
*Note: Be sure to skip the honey all together or substitute another sweetener if sharing with a child under 12-months-old. This is important: honey poses a botulism risk for babies under 1-year-old. Other than that, you can share this with early eaters by pureeing or pulsing the finished salad into an age-approrpriate texture.