This recipe is AMAZING! No seriously… it’s amazing.
I feel like I have recently discovered barley and its many applications. Recipes containing barley pop out at me like they never have before. This might have been a chance encounter since I was actually searching for eggplant recipes (we had purchased perhaps the world’s largest purple vegetable and needed creative ways to consume it). Nevertheless, this hearty mediterranean eggplant and barley salad became an instant favorite in our house and later took a baby shower by storm. When a group of women like something… they tell you.
The barley is cooked is a savory blend of cumin, coriander, cayenne and scallions that infuses into the grain as it soaks up chicken stock and loads of flavor. Toss in the roasted eggplant and zucchini and this dish seems like it could already be delicious and complete… but wait, there’s more! The cherry tomatoes add a brightness in both flavor and texture, while the kalamata olives (Mmmm) give the salad a kick of vinegar and salt. Dress the entire dish in a vibrant lemony garlic sauce and this salad goes from good to OHHH SO GOOD! Mint, parsley and red onions only heighten the dimensions of flavor that are mingling together in one bowl!
Make this salad as a stellar side dish with fish or simply snack on it for a few days. Either way… you’ll be happy every time you open your fridge and see this Mediterranean delight looking back at you.
Makes 4 (main course) or 8 (side dish) servings
1 1/2 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/4 cups pearl barley (8 oz)
1 (14-oz) can reduced-sodium chicken broth (1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed and drained if desired
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Roast eggplant and zucchini:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
Toss eggplant and zucchini with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool, reserving other pan for cooling barley.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Make dressing and assemble salad:
Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add barley, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well. Serve with cheese slices.
* Cooks’ note: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.