Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mediterranean Barley Salad

I am Polish, and I love barley. Polish people use it in many of our delicious dishes; it is the most popular one in Polish cuisine (along with such grains buckwheat or kasha, millet and manna). These made into such thing as traditional cabbage rolls (golabki), a wonderful mixture of meats and vegetables like in some other cuisines, and eventually covered with sauce or gravy. I especially like it in the Polish barley soup, it is quite yummy! When I went to kindergarten, we even got a milk soup with barley and sugar for breakfast.

In Canada, I only saw this grain in a dish (introduced to me by my mother-in-law) called beef and barley. That's of course not everything, but it is one of the ways people here know about barley (other than a flavouring for their beers). Too bad, because barley has a relatively good, mild taste (in comparison with a characteristic flavor of kasha that not everyone is fan of) and many benefits. It regulates digestion better than other types of grains because of its high soluble fiber content. It is also rich in PP vitamin, therefore it is usually highly recommended with skin problems and hypocholesterolemia.

What I found out in North America though, is that barley can be also used to prepare healthy, delicious and nutritious salads. Before, I had not eaten cold barley at all! I found an inspiration for the Mediterranean Barley Salad online, when I once had a plenty of feta cheese and arugula at home, and instantly provided some modifications to the original. I will be honest with you, the ingredients are not among the cheapest (especially good feta and pine nuts) but this salad tastes so great! I prepared a couple of times for our couchsurfers and wherever they come from, they all love it - like my husband and me! Once I got an e-mail from one couple (he is Canadian and she - Albanian) that surfed our couch. They wrote: "We just got engaged" and "Could you send us the recipe for the b a r e l y salad?":).

Here is how it goes:

  • One package (about 200 g) of crumbled feta cheese (I sometimes buy it in block and then crumble it myself)
  • 200-250 g of cooked barley (usually 100 g of uncooked one)
  • One bunch of arugula
  • About 15-20 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into tiny bits
  • About 4-5 roasted sweet red peppers pickled in wine vinegar brine (for example Krinos), cut into small pieces
  • 40 g of toasted pine nuts
  • One can of black olives

For dressing: about 6-8 tbsp of olive oil, about 6 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, one or two tbsp of lemon juice, salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs like basil, marjoram, rosemary etc. (Italian herb mix can work as well)

Prepare all the ingredients. Mix them well, gradually adding the dressing. Let it stand for about an hour. The salad can be refrigerated to up to three days.

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