Friday, May 13, 2016

Pantry in Action: Vegetable Barley Salad

The "Pantry in Action" series shows creative ways of using all the wonderful food we've preserved during the year. I will include recipes wherever appropriate with links back to the post(s) where a particular ingredient (or ingredients) was canned.

Always on the lookout for healthy eating choices, I was recently inspired by a co-worker's lunch of tabbouleh, the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern salad of tomatoes, parsley and bulgur.

Arriving home last night, I rifled through the vegetable crispers in the fridge and thought, "Why stop at tomatoes and parsley?". I discovered I had a red bell pepper, a yellow bell pepper, a couple of green zucchini, some celery, a bunch of asparagus and a red onion in addition to a large tomato and a bunch of fresh Italian parsley.

And not having any bulgur I spied some pot barley hiding at the back of the cupboard and thought "Why not?".

So, I began by cooking the barley the way I do rice -- a 2-to-1 ratio of cooking liquid to grain -- in this case using 2 cups of homemade chicken stock to 1 cup of barley, bringing it to a full boil and then covering and turning the heat down to low, leaving it to gently cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Pot barley, because it has most of its bran intact cooks up a little chewier than pearl barley or other processed grains, so don't think that it isn't cooked if it still feels a little firm.  Do a quick taste test -- it should be firm but tender with a nice chewy bite.

While the barley was cooking, I got busy and chopped all the vegetables into an even dice of about 1/2 an inch. The parsley was chopped finely. I heaped everything into a large mixing bowl and then went about concocting a dressing.

One the quickest and easiest salad dressings I've come across, and one that I make frequently just because it's so quick and easy and tastes so good is simply olive oil and red wine vinegar, emulsified with a little Dijon mustard.

For years I've had this little 4 ounce jar that originally held chopped garlic in oil. It's absolutely the perfect size for shaking together enough salad dressing to nicely dress a large bowl of salad for 4 people.

The basic ratio is one half jar of olive oil, one third of red wine vinegar and a large heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Pop the lid on the jar, give it a good shake and voilĂ  -- lovely salad dressing!

Pour about half the jar of dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. The bowl I'm using has a tight fitting lid that allows me to shake the whole thing together. Once the vegetables are nicely dressed, add the cooked barley and the rest of the dressing and mix everything together.

The greatest thing about this salad is it's complete flexibility. Like my Beans, Greens and Grains Bowl, you can just about throw together any combination of vegetables, greens and grains and call it good.

Same thing with the dressing. You can switch out the olive oil for canola, vegetable or a combination of oils, perhaps including a bit of toasted sesame oil for a little Asian flair. Try fresh lemon or orange juice in place of the vinegar.  Or, omit the mustard and just shake it together and pour. The possibilities are endless!

You can find the basic recipe here along with a few variations.

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