Thursday, June 3, 2010

Greek Barley Salad

Main course grain salads are one of my favourite meals and I loved that this salad was so flavourful and full of many of my favourite things - feta, grape tomatoes, basil, onions, pine nuts, lemon, Kalamata olives. Actually this salad was the turning point for me and olives. When I was younger, I hated olives as I think many of us did. Then I got used to the black sliced olives they put on sandwiches and pizza. Which lead to eating the olive that they put with Greek salads in restauants. BUT, I just realized how delicious Kalamata olives are. Yes I know they're the olives that are on Greek salads, but for some reason I didn't develop a full obsession until I bought a jar for this salad. Usually I buy the cheapest brand of canned olives, not really noticing or thinking there would be a difference compared to more expensive or fresher olives. But I decided to buy this fancy jar of olives and oh wow. Definitely worth it. When I took this salad for lunch, I would add a couple of extra olives on top. So very delicious.

So as I was saying, this salad is delicious. The only bad thing about it is that it was too "wet", which I think was due both to the yogurt in the dressing (which I'd likely omit next time) and the barley not being properly drained after cooking. I'd also add less barley next time as I like my dishes more filled with vegetables. And I'd highly recommend using whatever your favourite grain is in this salad (or whatever grain you have in your cupboard). The original recipe uses wheat berries (which are chewy and so yummy) but I had some barley to use up so went with that. Also, I thought a mix of oregano and basil would be better than just basil - but I was wrong. The oregano made the salad taste kind of weird on day 2 and on so next time I'll just stick to basil or maybe dried oregano.

I took this photo on my iPhone so it's a bit blurry but look at her fluffiness!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Dill and Lemon
Autumn Panzanella
French Barley Salad

Greek Barley Salad
Adapted from Phoo-D

Serves 4-6 as a Main Course, 10-12 as a Side Salad

2 cups pot barley (next time I'd use 1 1/2 cups)
4 cups water
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped + brine from jar (used below)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 roasted red bell peppers, chopped into bite size pieces
1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup basil leaves, julienned (I used a mix of basil & oregano, about 1/4 cup total but would recommend using just basil)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons "brine" from Kalamata olive jar (can be increased to taste)
1/2 cup 2% plain yogurt (next time I'd likely omit this)
Juice of the zested lemon
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Rinse barley under cool water and then drain. Place barley and 4 cups of water into a medium pot. Place the pot over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, and cover the pot with a lid. Cook the barley, stirring occasionally, for 60-90 minutes or until tender (but not mushy). Once the barley is cooked, drain off any remaining water, and transfer the barley to a large (8-10 cup capacity) bowl. (Make sure you drain the barley really well.)

While the barley is cooking, place a small saucepan over low heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, red onion, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Slowly cook the onion, stirring occasionally until it is softened and a light brown color. This will take about 40-60 minutes. Once the onion is caramelized, remove the saucepan from the heat and set the onions aside to cool.

Add the lemon zest, Kalamata olives, garlic, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, feta, and pine nuts into the large bowl with the wheat berries. Gently mix the ingredients together with a spoon to combine.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, "brine" from the Kalamata olive jar, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Once the dressing is well mixed, pour it over the salad and stir until all ingredients are well coated. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper if necessary. (Much like rice, the wheat berries will require a decent amount of salt for the flavor to shine through.) Serve the salad as is or plate on top of fresh spinach and garnish with additional feta cheese, tomatoes, and basil.

Salad can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored covered in the fridge. Bring to room temperature and mix well before serving.


Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) said...

Awww, I love the kitty pic!! :)

That salad looks gorgeous!


Johanna GGG said...

sounds excellent - main course salads are my favourites too - esp in the warmer weather - I know what you mean about the gradual realisation that olives are great - I tend to buy my olives from the deli when I need them or they sit too long and get mucky

Anonymous said...

Looks good. I'll take heed in your comments, I love that....I've printed it off, my favorite grain is hands down, quinoa. I made the orzo greek salad last weekend, it was a hit with the family and last night I made the dough for the pb chocolate pillows, assembly is tonight. They look amazing.

andreadevon said...

yummy! stoked to try this with the barley, which i have not yet cooked. i too am looking for ways to cook ahead, and mixed bowl foods is totally the solution. i just made your orzo-chickpea-feta dish last night and loved it... but i caramelized the onions before adding to the salad and served over a bed of steamed curly kale and baby arugula. it was crazy good.
your kitty is totally pretty! peace, andrea

Joanne said...

I am such a fan of grain salads as well...especially with awesome ingredients like feta and barley and olives. I've always loved black olives but have only just come around to kalamatas and green olives. And now I'm addicted. Maybe the dressing would be less goopy if you used a nice thick Greek yogurt?

Anonymous said...

That looks lovely! I will have to get some barley and give this a try (sans cheese). I love Greek-inspired salads.

Barb said...

this looks amazing. The barely would add so much to it as a main course. I'm going to give this one a try.

grace said...

can i possibly list all the things this salad has going for it? i doubt it, but i'll try--colorful, delicious, filling, healthy, and easy! yeah, that's just putting a dent in the list. :)

saveur said...

This looks delicious! I love hearty salads as well and this will definitely go on my 'to try' list. :)

Jessica said...

This salad looks so good. Stupid question though...what kind of olives did you use? Green or black? I'm guessing green? I love everything in this salad. Yum!

eatme_delicious said...

Jessica: I used Kalamata olives which I think are always black? I could be wrong though.

Kevin said...

That is one really good looking salad and it sound nice and healthy as well.

Michelle said...

Looks Tasty and Healthy- Both that I like

Chef Aimee said...

What a great dish to serve on the side for any barbecue...I have a greek chicken recipe I would totally pair this with!

Deborah said...

This mix of ingredients sounds amazing together!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

This salad would make my daughter so happy! It's got her favorite ingredients and it's healthy, too. Although she might pick out the tomatoes.

kimberleyblue said...

Oooh, this sounds so good and healthy. I'm always looking for great recipes I can make for my lunches at work, and this would probably do perfectly.

HappyTummy said...

oh yum, yum. i love greek food, and this looks like such an exciting mix of greek flavors. i sure do miss feta...i've tried avoiding it since getting pregnant.

Dana said...

I got wheat berries as part of my CSA last fall. I cooked them all and then froze them in smaller portions. I just used some in a green salad and was delighted with how good they were. I have several more bags so I am excited to try this salad with them!

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