Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spring Veggies and Barley Salad with Basil Tahini Dressing

It is May 1st in New England and it is dreary and cold and I am grumpy about it, goshdarnit! Last night, I went to an outdoor sporting even wearing jeans with tights, a sweater, two shirts, a down jacket, a down vest, a hat, and gloves, like it was November, and I was still cold. To simply say that I'd like spring to actually spring would be a disservice to my desire to see sunshine and brilliant shades of green, though I have to believe it's coming...soon. Please? I've had it with you, sort of cold and dreary and not nearly the violently green spring I miss! I'm making it happen inside if it won't happen outside. From my kitchen to your eyes (and my mouth), here be a salad that channels my plea to Mother Nature: green, puh-lease?

Spring Veggies and Barley Salad w/Basil Tahini Dressing

Serves 6-8 as a side, 4-6 as a meal
Spring Veggies and Barley Salad with Basil Tahini Dressing

1 cup dry barley
3.5 cups water
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup halved sungold or other cherry tomatoes
2 cups cut asparagus
¾ cup frozen peas
4 cups baby spinach/kale
Salt & pepper & a dash of EVOO

½ + cup basil
1 clove garlic
Juice and zest of one lemon, +1 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup tahini
¼-½ cup warm water
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 scallion
½ tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat over to 400 and roast cauliflower tossed with a dash of oil and salt and pepper for 30 minutes until beginning to brown. Set aside to cool.
2. Fill a saucepan with 3.5 cups of water and barley and cook until mostly done according to package directions, roughly 50 minutes.  
3.  *Combine dressing ingredients in a cuisinart, blend until it is well combined and mostly green with very few flecks of basil.  Start with ¼ cup water and add a little more or some more lemon juice to help it combine.  
3.  When barley is mostly done and water is mostly cooked off, add asparagus and frozen peas to the barley pot, and cook covered for about 3 minutes.  Turn heat off, but stir, and leave covered for about 2 more minutes or until peas are not frozen and asparagus is blanched and a brilliant shade of green.  
4.  Add barley mix to cooled cauliflower, tomatoes and greens and stir to combine.  Add dressing in layers and continue to mix.  Taste, and probably add a little more salt.  
6.  Serve as a side or as a main warm or chilled...suggestions below in the notes!  


  • *The dressing can be made independently and served on other things as well, duh!  See step 3 for dressing directions.  Note that I seriously wanted to add red pepper flakes, but held back because I was serving this to others.  Naturally, the first thing someone said was “this would be great with some sriracha!” I KNOW.  I’ve added what I wanted to do to the dressing here, but you don’t need to include red pepper (if you’re a wuss).  
  • Be really careful to not overcook your asparagus and peas.  Part of the greatness of the salad is the brilliance of the greens - overcooked greens are so gross.  Undercook rather that overcook, and remember that the barley is hot and will keep cooking your asparagus, so check yourself before you wreck yourself.
  • Taste and probably add salt - I think I under-seasoned it a bit because I was worried about the salt from the cauliflower overdoing this, but it’s a big salad and the ingredients and sauce dilute it, so season to taste after it’s combined.
  • As prepared, this is a vegan recipe.  You can complicate that with many of the suggestions below.  
  • Serving suggestions: Crisp white wine, poached egg on top, grilled chicken, portobello, shrimp or maybe pork, add seitan to the salad (and hey, add that egg too), or cheese if you like that (feta would probably go well), etc.  I’m always partial to an egg, and think that grilled mushrooms or seitan mixed in would be delish.

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