Times are changing.
There’s a good chance now that if you have house guests, one or more of them may have dietary restrictions or preferences that might (if we’re being honest) stress you out a bit.
You need a recipe like this Lentil Barley Salad with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette.
It’s a meatless main course salad that can be veganized (just substitute maple syrup for the honey) and nut-free (substitute sunflower seeds for the walnuts, or simply omit them). If you need a gluten-free option, you can substitute cooked brown rice for the barley.
The salad keeps well in the fridge, so you can make it in advance to have on hand for a day or two.
And if you are the guest causing the stress, this Lentil Barley Salad makes a great take-along dish to soothe your host.
Why cook with barley?
Barley is a nutritious grain that deserves more time on the table. It is full of fiber and a good range of vitamins and minerals.
You can find two varieties in most grocery stores: ‘pearl’ or ‘pot’ barley. Pearl barley is more refined than pot barley, as most of the outer layers of the grain have been removed to make it a softer, faster-cooking product.
Pot barley retains most of the outer layers and their nutrients. Pearl barley, however – even though it is more refined – still remains a good source of fiber and other nutrients because they are stored more deeply throughout the grain.
All this to say, either type will be a good choice.
I like to soak my barley for a few hours before cooking it, as I find it reduces the cooking time a bit. For detailed information on how to cook barley, check out these instructions from The Kitchn.
What about the lentils?
Lentils are the other main ingredient in this salad. For best results, I recommend using the small Le Puy lentils, which are usually available at most grocery stores. These little legumes keep their shape well during cooking, and have a more distinctive taste than the larger lentils. If you can’t them, you can substitute the larger green or brown lentils.
So cook your barley and lentils, toss them (warm) with a lemony thyme dressing and add your finely diced vegetables. That’s it. If you keep some cooked barley and lentils on hand in the freezer or fridge, you can pull this together very quickly.
If you are looking for some more main course salads that will keep in the fridge and satisfy a variety of preferences, here are a few from the Ketchup With That archives:
- 2 cups / 500 ml cooked lentils
- 2 cups / 500 ml cooked barley
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml olive oil
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt
- 1/4 teaspoon / 1.25 ml ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml dried thyme or 1 tablespoon / 15 ml fresh
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml honey
- 1 cup / 250 ml coarsely grated carrot
- 1 cup / 250 ml finely diced red pepper
- 1 green onion thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml finely diced fennel
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml toasted walnuts optional - see note
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt
If you do not have cooked lentils and barley available, cook them separately. To cook lentils, place 1 cup of lentils in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and cover. Lentils should simmer for 20 minutes until they are tender but retain their shape. Remove them from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before draining any excess water. (I add a clove of garlic cut into slivers to the cooking water for extra flavor.)
To cook barley, cover 1/2 cup of barley with 3 cups of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes (for pearl barley) and up to 45 minutes (for pot barley). The barley grains should be swollen and tender but still a bit chewy when they are cooked. You can reduce the cooking time by soaking the barley for at least 4 hours before cooking. Drain any excess water from the barley. You can save this cooking water to use when making vegetable stocks.
Combine lentils and barley in large mixing bowl.
In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, 1/4 cup / 60 ml lemon juice, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt, pepper, thyme and honey. Stir dressing into lentil mixture until well-blended.
Add carrot, red pepper, green onion, fennel, parsley, and walnuts to lentils. Stir until everything is evenly distributed.
Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon / 15 ml lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt over the salad and stir gently.
Let the salad sit for at least an hour to give the flavors time to blend.
To toast nuts: place nuts on a cold fry pan and turn the heat to medium. Stir or toss frequently. The nuts should become lightly browned and begin to smell fragrant when they are done. Remove them from the heat immediately and turn out of pan into the salad or a small bowl until you are ready to use them. You will need to keep a close eye on the nuts. It should only take about 5 minutes to toast them. They can burn very quickly once they are toasted.
If you do not have walnut, you can substitute sunflower seeds in the recipe. Toast them according to the instructions above.
Toasting is not completely necessary, but it does improve the flavor of the nuts.