barley and kale chopped salad
Emily is in college. Therefore, all of our money goes to college and, simple everyday expenditures need to be contained. Little things like $3 coffee — or a $7 lunch. No big deal on the coffee. Scott brews a pot every morning that could rival the best baristas. Watch out Starbucks!
For lunch, I’m in charge. Rather than eating out every day, I make tasty, healthy and economical brown-baggers. My trick for getting lunch together easily every morning is to spend 25 minutes (once or twice a week) on a dish that has the fortitude to make it through a week of lunches, or at least several days worth. So I mix it up with sturdy grain salads.
We both like salads for lunch. The problem with that is that they are only good when they’re fresh and they’re only fresh if you make them THAT DAY! Unless you use ingredients that have the will power, the sheer defiance to boldly proclaim, “I WILL NOT WILT!” Hence, this lovely barley and kale number which is chock full of other crispy, crunchy veggies with the same stoic backbone as a teacher on the first day of school.
Let’s talk about what I didn’t use in this salad. No tomatoes (too much watery goo will weep from them). No mesclun or fine-leaf lettuces (once dressed, they absorb the dressing and slump faster than Charlie Brown after Lucy pulls the football away). No nuts, croutons, seeds or tortilla strips which are good the first day, but resemble a sponge the next. No cheese — within 24 hours, there is something decidedly slimy and suspect about it.
In this blend, flavor and crunch take center stage – carrots, bell peppers, pepperoncinis, radishes, chick peas, red onion, kalamata olives, celery and kale! Barley adds heft and a piquant vinaigrette with a solid douse of juice from the pepperoncini jar make this a welcome addition to any lunchbox (or dinner).
Mix-ins from the what I didn’t use list (above) would certainly work — but should only be added the day of consumption. Also, any protein leftover from the night before works well. Diced chicken, pork, beef — maybe a few shrimp. Why not? That’s the beauty of this salad. It can be a different one every day depending on what you add at the last minute.
Since this dish features lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains, it’s one that will satisfy without putting you to sleep an hour afterwards. Long-lasting energy without the post-burger- and-fries-crash. Win-win! And back to the original theme of this post — a month of brown bagging puts at least another $140 back in my pocket — which I will pass right along to Emily’s university. Sigh.
Barley and Kale Chopped Salad
- 1 cup quick cooking barley
- 2 cups water
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup celery 1-2 stalks, diced
- 1/4 cup red onion finely diced
- 1 carrot peeled and grated
- 1/2 english cucumber diced
- 1/3 cup pepperoncini peppers from a jar sliced, the seeds are fine, but discard the stems
- 1/2 red bell pepper seeded and diced
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper seeded and diced
- 3 scallions white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
- 3 radishes very thinly sliced
- 2 cups kale tough stems removed, chopped
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and quartered
For the vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons juice from pepperoncini pepper jar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- In a small saucepan, heat water and pinch of salt to a boil. Add barley, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and barley is done. Lift cover and remove pan from heat. Allow barley to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables as specified above for the salad. Transfer veggies to a large bowl and toss to combine.
- Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or measuring cup, add all the ingredients. Whisk rapidly until mixture emulsifies.
- Add cooled barley to the salad and toss to combine thoroughly
- Add dressing about 1/4 cup at a time, tossing the salad completely before adding more dressing. After adding some dressing and tossing, taste to see if it needs more. Do not over-dress the salad. Adjust seasoning to taste. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Keeps for up to five days. Serve chilled or at room temperature.