Welcome to Salad Season
Summer is here! Well, the official date is June 21. During this time of year, the sun spirals its longest dance and on the solstice provides the most daylight hours of
the year. The more daylight, the more energy, which in turn means more plant growth and more abundant harvests. This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun.
During this time of year, epic summer salads are a great way to stay cool and enjoy the bounty. Salads are generally thought of as leafy greens with some added veggies, but salads can be composed of all sorts of varied ingredients. When does a salad become a “bowl”? Not sure I have the answer to that one, but by adding a whole grain, like barley, to a summer salad, the salad can be used not only as a side dish, but as the main course. Barley contains approximately 38g of fiber per cup of dry grain. Besides being great for your gut microbiome, the fiber found in the whole grains like barley signals satiation, making you feel full and content longer after a meal.
Barley is a cereal grain that has a slight earthy taste and chewy texture. It is nutritious as well as versatile. In fact, Nourishing Generations website already contains a blog recipe with information about cooking barley and making mushroom barley soup. Here’s the link: https://www.nourishinggenerations.org/post/how-to-cook-barley
Hulled barley is considered a whole grain and is therefore a better choice than the alternative, pearl barley. Hulled barley has more nutritional value as it comes minimally processed or “refined”. Only the inedible outer hull is removed, leaving the grain’s bran and endosperm intact and therefore enhancing the nutrient-dense goodness. The only drawback to using whole grain barley is that it takes longer to prepare.
Even if you presoak the grain in cold water for anywhere from a few hours to overnight, cooking time is still more than 30 minutes. An option for steaming hulled barley is provided in the link above, but for the summer salad recipe presented here, we will be toasting the grain prior to steaming. As indicated in the other blog, barley absorbs about three times its volume in liquid during the steaming process. For use in the barley salad, I suggest steaming the barley in vegetable, chicken, or bone broth to add even more to its nutritional profile as well as flavor to the dish.
Of course home-made broth or stock is superior to any store bought version, but as a convenience if you do opt for store bought look for “low sodium” style broth. Store-bought broths are quite high in sodium. Each cup of vegetable broth contains around 540 milligrams of sodium while beef broths can contain as much as 889 milligrams of sodium. According to the American Heart Association, healthy adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day — or 1,500 milligrams if you have high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.
This recipe contains a number of other ingredients worth mentioning for their nutritional value. One cup of dark leafy greens from spinach leaves contributes the following vitamins and minerals per 1 cup:
29.7 mg of calcium
0.81 g of iron24 mg of magnesium
167 mg of potassium
141 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
58 mcg of folate
The recipe also includes tomatoes, corn, cilantro, green onions, green and red bell peppers, lime juice, and portabella mushrooms. This recipe takes some time to put together, but I’ve not met anyone that doesn’t appreciate the final product. In fact, my sister in law was so crazy in love with the dish that I had to promise to send her home with the leftovers so she would consider eating some of the other offerings at a BBQ. So, you might want to make enough for seconds.
Barley Summer Salad
½ cup hulled barley
1 ½ cups low-sodium broth (vegetable, chicken, or bone)
1 large poblano chili or green bell pepper
1 small red bell pepper
2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh corn kernels (slice the cob lengthwise)
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large portabella mushrooms, stemmed, dark gills scraped away
24 large spinach leaves
Place barley in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until pale golden, shaking pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add broth to pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until barley is tender and broth is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Uncover and allow barley to cool.
Char poblano and red bell pepper over a gas flame or in a broiler until blackened on all sides (cut in half and place cut side down on a cookie sheet). Enclose the peppers in a paper bag and let stand for 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and dice poblano and red bell pepper. Place barley, poblano, and red bell pepper in a large bowl. Add tomatoes and next 5 ingredients; toss to blend. Season salad with salt and pepper to taste. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover; refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or use a broiler. Brush mushrooms with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or broil until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to work surface; slice thinly. Arrange 6 spinach leaves on each of 4 plates and top with barley salad or add spinach directly to the salad. Serve while mushrooms are still warm.