On the menu: Barley Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans
I can’t believe I haven’t yet told you about this book. Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan was released late last spring, right as Kevin was getting ready to move down to his lab for the summer and I was trying to figure out how I was going to feed myself for three months. I debated buying the book for quite a while–I wasn’t going to be cooking for myself for all that long, really–but once I read through it, I had no regrets. This guy makes a mean single-portion meal. Many, in fact. Last summer, two of my most memorable meals came from his book–pineapple can cornish hen and turkey breast tacos with salsa verde. (I need to make those again, soon!)
Fast forward six months. In the midst of heavy, hearty, wintry eating habits, we needed something bright and fresh to perk up our diet. I took Serve Yourself off of the shelf, dusted it off (it had been awhile), and flipped through its pages for some inspiration. And then I saw it. Farro Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans, a light dish full of flavor, texture, and color. We needed it in our lives, stat. Can I tell you what I think about farro? I think it’s overrated. It’s basically barley, friends, but because it’s from Italy it’s almost twice as expensive per pound. What’s up with that? So I picked up some semi-pearled barley at the store. After going through the ingredient list, I was surprised to find that we had everything else we needed for the salad in our pantry already. We’ve been trying to build a better pantry so we don’t have to go grocery shopping as often, and it’s paying off. We keep canned tomatoes, pecans, and chickpeas around all the time now. I found cheap dried tart cherries at Target, and Kevin can’t stop eating them. He puts them on his oatmeal most mornings. They’re also a pantry staple.
Once the grains are cooked, the salad comes together in minutes. The pecans get a quick toast to amp up their flavor, then everything is mixed together and dressed with a zippy red wine vinaigrette. It’s a good thing this salad is so easy to make because we chowed through a full batch in 2 days. It has it all: smooth chickpeas, crunchy pecans, chewy cherries, and toothsome barley. The flavors are unreal: sweet, tangy, minty, and earthy, all at the same time. This dish is so simple to make and so complex when eaten. Perhaps it will become one of our lunchtime staples.
Barley Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans
adapted from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
1 cup dried semi pearled barley
1/4 cup raw pecans
1 cup cooked chickpeas (we used canned, Yonan prefers homemade)
1 cup baby arugula leaves, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup canned diced tomatoes and their juice
1/3 cup unsweetened dried cherries
3 small shallots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt
First, cook the barley: bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Rinse the barley and add it to the boiling water and cook for 30-35 minutes until the grains are tender. Drain and let cool.
When the grains have cooled to room temperature, mix in all remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve, either chilled or at room temperature. I would imagine that this salad keeps for days, but it wasn’t around long enough in our fridge to find out.