A few weeks ago, I shared my attempt to better plan my lunches. For me, the most successful strategy so far is possibly the simplest: COOK MORE. Intentional leftovers, I mean. (If you’re one of those people who doesn’t eat leftovers…well, I don’t have much to say to you. I’m probably thinking, “What!? Are you crazy?” But if you don’t have anything nice to say…) Sure, there are some things that don’t keep very well (leafy greens in dressing, for one), but most things do just fine reheated the next day. I don’t mind the repetition, but you can always alternate days or package up your leftovers in lunch-sized containers for the freezer. But if I double a dinner recipe, instead of just hoping there will be a serving or two left for the next day, I haven’t gone to any extra trouble and I miraculously have several lunches already prepared for the rest of the week. Grains, pastas, soups and slow-cooked meats are especially suited to this treatment.
This barley salad is a filling, all-in-one side dish (we had it with steak), but it also becomes a nice centerpiece to a lunch (I rounded my plate out with the last bit of egg salad), and if you want more protein you can add some grilled chicken or a bit of thinly sliced steak, or maybe a few slices of cured meat. The recipe is scaled up to serve for several meals, and you can vary it by adding other roasted vegetables, scallions, red onions, or lemon juice instead of vinegar. Use what you have, and taste as you go. If you toss the feta with the barley while it’s still warm, it melts and binds the whole dish together, which I love. If you prefer chunks of feta, wait until the salad has cooled to room temperature before tossing in the cheese.
Mediterranean Barley Salad
2 cups pearl barley
5 roasted sweet peppers, diced
1 large onion, sliced thinly
4 ounces feta, crumbled
large handful of cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. tahini
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the barley and simmer until tender, up to 1 hour, adding more water to the pot if necessary (I keep a tea kettle of boiling water handy). In a small skillet, slowly sauté the sliced onions in a Tbsp. of olive oil, stirring regularly, until they are caramelized. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, vinegar, salt and pepper until smooth. Continue to whisk while drizzling in the olive oil. Set aside.
Drain the barley, and add it to the dressing in the bowl. Add the roasted peppers, caramelized onions and feta, and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.