I’m gonna be honest. I’m not really sure what this recipe is. I mean, other than fresh and delicious.
Is it a cold salad? Is it a warm side dish?
Hm. It could be either, I guess. You decide! Like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books.
This is one of those perfect do-ahead meals for any potluck or barbecue you attend this summer. It is easily served cold, room temp, or warm. In fact, the first rendition of this meal came about when we were invited to a potluck and had basically no fresh food on hand. We did, however, have a bunch of Trader Joe’s 10 minute barley, frozen veggies, and a variety of cheeses. I don’t know about you, but on any given day, we have at the bare minimum five different cheeses in our house. Ten is more common. Fifteen is not unheard of. Mmmmm cheese.
Since I knew I wouldn’t have time to whip up something after work and before the dinner we were invited to, I decided to make something the night before. I figured that the texture of the barley would hold up really well to a little overnight soak anyway. Since we always have garlic on hand, I roasted some up, and used it to make a simple vinaigrette with lime juice, and a little olive oil. Between the texture of the barley, the amazing flavor combination of the dressing, and a little hint of crisp bacon, I knew we were on the right track.
After adding some halved grape tomatoes, and a few scoops of feta cheese, we were in business.
My husband doesn’t generally even like a meal that doesn’t contain meat (a little sprinkling of bacon does not count in his book). So I knew this recipe had some serious potential when after coming home late one night from two days of travel, expecting to scarf down a few bites of this goodness before crashing, I was shocked to see that every last crumb was gone. He had eaten the barley salad, and only the barley salad, for two days. Unheard of, I tell you. What was even more shocking was that after three days of eating the stuff, he requested that I make it more often. What?!?
Next, I decided to test out the recipe on my parents while they were visiting this weekend. I think this was the first time my parents had ever heard of barley anything, so I was a little worried about what they’d think. In the end I almost had to name the recipe, “My Dad’s Favorite Salad” because he devoured it. We all did, actually. Even though this recipe would probably serve at least 8-10 people, between me, hubby, and my parents we ate almost all of it in one sitting.
You know this stuff has to be good.
Hot or Cold Barley Summer Salad
- 2 cups quick cooking barley (or any barley cooked to al dente and rinsed)
- a 32 oz carton of chicken broth (could use well salted water instead)
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
- 1 bag frozen veggies of your choosing (I used “Soycatash” from Trader Joe’s which is edamame, corn, and red bell pepper)
- 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup of feta cheese
- 3 or 4 tbsp of fresh chopped cilantro
- 5 cloves of roasted garlic (about half a head of roasted garlic, how-to, from How Sweet It Is here)
- the juice of 2 limes (about 1 1/4 oz)
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- salt / pepper to taste
Start by making your roasted garlic. I recommend you do this ahead of time because it stays good in the fridge for a while. If you’ve never roasted garlic before, this easy how-to from one of my favorite food blogs, How Sweet It Is, will show you the step by step process. Next, pour the container of chicken broth into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the barley, and let cook until al dente. If you’re working with a quick cooking barley, 10-15 minutes should be plenty of time. In the mean time, start crisping up your bacon in a large skillet. I like to use my cast iron skillet for this. Once the bacon is crisped up to your liking, remove it to a paper towel lined dish. Remove some of the bacon fat from the skillet so that you have about a tablespoon or two remaining. Add the corn kernels, and saute on medium heat for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally, but allowing the corn to get a nice bit of color (aka don’t stir too much). Once the corn starts to caramelize, add your frozen veggies. Cook until all the veggies have a bit of char, but are still relatively firm.
When the barley is done, pour it into a strainer and rinse very well with cold water for several minutes. Add this directly to the veggies in a serving bowl, stirring well to combine. Crumble the bacon and add this on top, along with the tomatoes, feta cheese, and finally your chopped cilantro. While the barley is rinsing, put your roasted garlic, lime juice, and a few pinches of salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse a few times, then turn on while you slowly stream in the olive oil. Once the vinaigrette is well combined, drizzle it over your barley salad. After guests have had a chance to snap a pic or two of this beauty, toss everything together and serve (or store in the fridge for the next day or two).
I opted for a nice, clean summer beer to drink with this versatile salad. I found that the simple, citrusy flavor of an Anchor Summer Beer was the perfect accompaniment. I was slightly confused by the “wheat” description of this beer, but if you ignore that, it is quite lovely. If you’re looking for a true Belgian wit and are able to find it, I would opt for the Rivertown Wit Ale, a lovely and local (for me) Belgian blonde.
You will not be disappointed by this meal. I just ate the last spoonful of leftovers and almost licked the plate. Gah. So good.