Peas, cucumbers and dill give this barley and asparagus salad a spring-y flavor, though you can make it year round if you can find good asparagus.
Time was when asparagus was only available in the spring. And though now it’s in many markets year-round, it’s best (and least expensive) in spring, its true season. I still prefer to make this delectable salad and other asparagus dishes when it appears locally in spring.
Because barley is so sturdy and pleasingly chewy, this is a nice salad for potlucks and outdoor meals. It can also be served on its own as a first course at more formal dinners when you’ve got company.
Complete the meal: As the weather warms up, this salad can be a side-by-side dish with a simple potato salad or bean salad. Or, for an easy meal, serve with veggie burgers.
Barley, one of the most ancient of cultivated grains, is most commonly available in the pearl variety, the kind you’re most likely to find in supermarkets. Searching a bit further afield, you might find pot barley in natural foods stores and food co-ops. Pot barley is less refined, retaining more of the natural fiber and bran. Both are mild-tasting, pleasantly chewy, and versatile.
Basic cooked barley: Use 3 cups water per 1 cup of pearl barley or 3 1/2 cups water per 1 cup of pot barley. Rinse the barley well in a fine sieve. Bring water to a rapid simmer in a medium saucepan, stir in the barley, and return to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the water is absorbed, about 35 to 45 minutes. Here are a few ideas for using it:
- Barley is, of course, a classic soup grain. Add uncooked barley to long-simmering soups like Tomato-Barley Vegetable Soup for extra heartiness. Add cooked barley to cold summer soups for a satisfying texture. It’s especially good in cold cucumber and potato soups.
- Use barley as a change of pace from rice in pilafs and casseroles.
- Barley is a fantastic base for marinated grain salads like this one, or combined with beans and/or raw vegetables.
- 3/4 cup pearl or pot barley (about 3 cups cooked)
- 8 or so asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup thawed frozen green peas (or shelled fresh, if available)
- 1/2 medium or 2 mini cucumbers, sliced
- 1/2 cup peeled and sliced carrot or baby carrots
- 1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced black olives
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup bottled vinaigrette or Basic Vinaigrette (page 000)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons), or to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine 2 1/2 cups (for pearl barley) or 3 cups water (for pot barley) with the grain in a saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat, and simmer gently, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 30 to 40 minutes. If the grain isn’t done to your liking, stir in an additional 1/2 cup water and cook until absorbed.
- Remove the cooked barley from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Steam the asparagus and peas until just barely tender-crisp, then rinse under cool running water.
- Combine the cooked barley, asparagus, and peas in a large serving bowl and stir together. If time allows, let stand for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Otherwise, dig in at once!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 166Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 280mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 3g
Nutrition data is always an estimate depending on program used to calculate and exact products used. This is given for informational purposes only and accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
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