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.


Spinach feta quiche

To be honest, I’ve been struggling with pie crust lately. Blind baked crusts have been emerging from the oven shrunken and puffy, and my pretty crimped edges have turned out deformed. I suspect it’s a case of trying too hard, attempting techniques from a variety of recipes from memory–a faulty and distracted memory, unfortunately.

So I abandoned blind baking for a time and tried this crust recipe. The cornstarch gives a nice crispiness, and though it still shrank slightly, it didn’t make much difference in my deep dish plate, which I like for quiche because it makes a nice hearty slice and I’m less likely to slosh the unbaked custard onto the bottom of the oven. (What? That never happens to you?)

I had spinach, feta and some leftover sliced leeks in the fridge when I made this quiche. You can vary the filling ingredients all you like, but this combination was particularly rich and tasty. We ate it for dinner, and finished the rest for breakfast. Quiche is something I can eat any time of day or night. It’s the little black dress of mealtime. Accessorize with a green salad and a glass of wine for dinner, or add a cup of coffee and some fresh fruit for breakfast time.

And that’s all the fashion advice I’ll be giving out around here. Promise.

Spinach Feta Quiche


1 1/4 cups flour

1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. cornstarch

pinch of salt

6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, diced

1 egg, lightly beaten


1 cup finely chopped leeks

5 ounces spinach, washed and spun dry

1 Tbsp. butter

1 1/2 cups crumbled feta

4 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. pepper

Sauté the leeks in the butter over medium heat until they are soft and lightly caramelized. Add the spinach (I ripped the larger leaves into smaller pieces) and stir into the leeks. Cover for a couple minutes until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch and salt. Add the chunks of cold butter and cut it in with a pastry blender (or use the food processor). With a fork, stir in the egg and mix until a dough forms. You may need to use your hands to press the dough into a ball.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a deep dish 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Trim and crimp the edges and chill for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the cream, sour cream, eggs, nutmeg and pepper in a large bowl. Spread the leek and spinach mixture into the pie shell. Add the crumbled feta, then pour the custard on top. Bake until puffed and golden, 30-45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.