Main course grain salads are one of my favourite meals and I loved that this salad was so flavourful and full of many of my favourite things - feta, grape tomatoes, basil, onions, pine nuts, lemon, Kalamata olives. Actually this salad was the turning point for me and olives. When I was younger, I hated olives as I think many of us did. Then I got used to the black sliced olives they put on sandwiches and pizza. Which lead to eating the olive that they put with Greek salads in restauants. BUT, I just realized how delicious Kalamata olives are. Yes I know they're the olives that are on Greek salads, but for some reason I didn't develop a full obsession until I bought a jar for this salad. Usually I buy the cheapest brand of canned olives, not really noticing or thinking there would be a difference compared to more expensive or fresher olives. But I decided to buy this fancy jar of olives and oh wow. Definitely worth it. When I took this salad for lunch, I would add a couple of extra olives on top. So very delicious.
So as I was saying, this salad is delicious. The only bad thing about it is that it was too "wet", which I think was due both to the yogurt in the dressing (which I'd likely omit next time) and the barley not being properly drained after cooking. I'd also add less barley next time as I like my dishes more filled with vegetables. And I'd highly recommend using whatever your favourite grain is in this salad (or whatever grain you have in your cupboard). The original recipe uses wheat berries (which are chewy and so yummy) but I had some barley to use up so went with that. Also, I thought a mix of oregano and basil would be better than just basil - but I was wrong. The oregano made the salad taste kind of weird on day 2 and on so next time I'll just stick to basil or maybe dried oregano.
I took this photo on my iPhone so it's a bit blurry but look at her fluffiness!
If this sounds good, you might also like:
Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Dill and Lemon
French Barley Salad
Greek Barley Salad
Adapted from Phoo-D
Serves 4-6 as a Main Course, 10-12 as a Side Salad
2 cups pot barley (next time I'd use 1 1/2 cups)
4 cups water
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped + brine from jar (used below)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 roasted red bell peppers, chopped into bite size pieces
1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup basil leaves, julienned (I used a mix of basil & oregano, about 1/4 cup total but would recommend using just basil)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons "brine" from Kalamata olive jar (can be increased to taste)
1/2 cup 2% plain yogurt (next time I'd likely omit this)
Juice of the zested lemon
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Rinse barley under cool water and then drain. Place barley and 4 cups of water into a medium pot. Place the pot over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, and cover the pot with a lid. Cook the barley, stirring occasionally, for 60-90 minutes or until tender (but not mushy). Once the barley is cooked, drain off any remaining water, and transfer the barley to a large (8-10 cup capacity) bowl. (Make sure you drain the barley really well.)
While the barley is cooking, place a small saucepan over low heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, red onion, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Slowly cook the onion, stirring occasionally until it is softened and a light brown color. This will take about 40-60 minutes. Once the onion is caramelized, remove the saucepan from the heat and set the onions aside to cool.
Add the lemon zest, Kalamata olives, garlic, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, feta, and pine nuts into the large bowl with the wheat berries. Gently mix the ingredients together with a spoon to combine.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, "brine" from the Kalamata olive jar, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Once the dressing is well mixed, pour it over the salad and stir until all ingredients are well coated. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper if necessary. (Much like rice, the wheat berries will require a decent amount of salt for the flavor to shine through.) Serve the salad as is or plate on top of fresh spinach and garnish with additional feta cheese, tomatoes, and basil.
Salad can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored covered in the fridge. Bring to room temperature and mix well before serving.