Mediterranean Barley Salad

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.

Barley in duck broth and sour cream scones

There is nothing that makes me feel thriftier than making soup from scratch, homemade broth and all. Sometimes my no-recipe soups have tasted a little flat, but I think I’m finally learning.

I saved and froze the carcasses from the two ducks we roasted for Christmas dinner. They had been stuffed with sage, garlic and oranges. The morning of the day I planned to have soup for dinner, I plunked the frozen duck bones into the slow cooker, tossed in a couple carrots, and covered the whole thing with water. I cooked it on high for four hours, and on low for another four. I strained the stock into a big bowl (it came to about two quarts), and then proceeded to make this soup. When the soup was about ready, I decided we needed a little something to round out the meal, so I mixed up these cheesy scones from what I had on hand. The sour cream makes them very tender and light, and a chunk of white sharp cheddar made a nice accompaniment to the soup. A very happy experiment that I’m looking forward to repeating.

Barley in Duck Broth

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, sliced thinly

4 ounces white mushrooms, chopped (very finely, so they were unrecognizable to my picky eaters, but you can leave them bigger)

2 quarts duck stock (really, any rich homemade stock–chicken or beef would be fine)

1 cup barley, cooked and drained

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1-2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add sliced carrots, mushrooms, and stock. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and simmer until carrots are tender. Add thyme and barley and heat through. Taste broth, and adjust seasoning (sherry vinegar, salt and pepper).

 

Sour Cream Scones with Cheese

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup grated cheese (sharp cheddar works nicely)

2 Tbsp. cold butter

3/4 cup sour cream

1 beaten egg

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Either grate cold butter into bowl, or rub it in with your fingers until there are no big lumps of butter left. Stir in grated cheese. Whisk together sour cream and egg, and then stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until moistened. Dump the mixture out onto a floured counter and gently knead and press it all together into a ball. Form into a disk about 1/2-inch thick, and cut into 8 wedges. Bake the scones for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Monday Menu

Those cabbage rolls I was going to make last week? Too ambitious for a weeknight. I ditched the plan and made grilled cheese sandwiches instead. The Hub made the cabbage rolls on Saturday (along with a Polish apple cake…mmm…) and they were worth the effort. (His effort, that is. My efforts on Saturday involved a paintbrush.) There was enough left for another full dinner, so I packed them into the freezer for another week.

This week we included one slow cooker meal (pot roast) and one meal created from leftovers (ragout made from leftover roast). Wednesday is the most complicated meal, but I’ll cook the barley in the morning. If you’re not home during the day, you could cook it the night before–it takes about an hour.

Monday: Sesame noodles, potstickers and edamame

Tuesday: Pot roast (slow cooker), mashed potatoes, broccoli

Wednesday: Chicken breasts with bay leaves, barley with carrots & scallions (Cook This Now), roasted brussels sprouts

Thursday: Beef ragout on pasta, salad

Friday: Pizza Night

 

Last week on Home Baked

Getting organized for homework and music practice

Monday Menu

 

What are you cooking this week? Share a meal in the comments!