Over the last few months, I’ve become really interested in cooking with whole grains. Not only are they much healthier than your standard carbohydrate, but I see them everywhere: in the prepared foods department at the grocery store, in recipes I find on my favorite websites or in magazines. Now that I’ve made quinoa several times and realize how easy it is to prepare, I’m moving on to barley. Last night I was paging through my copy of Food & Wine’s 2009 Annual Cookbook looking for inspiration for my friend Heather’s bridal shower menu (more to come on that later) and I came across this recipe for barley salad. It was especially appealing because not only did I already have most of the ingredients on hand, but it also calls for ricotta salata, a cheese I keep hearing about, but have yet to try. Once I did, however, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. Ricotta salata is a bit creamier than feta, and the flavor isn’t as sharp. I did a taste test while I was crumbling it for the salad and loved it, but once I added it to the barley and parsley mixture it was to die for. Seriously. This is one salad you have to make. The olive oil, garlic and lemon juice vinaigrette gives the dish a light Mediterranean flavor. One thing to note: While the recipe calls for 1 cup of flat leave parsley, I’d say 3/4 of a cup would be plenty or even a cup loosely packed. I removed some of the parsley I added because I didn’t want it to totally overtake the barley.
We ate the salad as a side to shrimp skewers. I think this is a definite add to the bridal shower menu!
Barley Salad With Parsley and Walnuts
1 1/4 cups pearled barley (9 ounces)
1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the barley over high heat until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the barley and rinse under cold water to cool thoroughly. Drain again, shaking out the excess water.
Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Coarsely chop the nuts. In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, garlic and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Add the barley, parsley and ricotta salata and toss gently. Add the toasted walnuts, toss again and serve.