SERVES 6 to 8 (VEG): Boiling nutty pearl barley ensures the grains stay separate and distinct in this flavorful Egyptian salad.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS We set out to develop a recipe for a vibrantly spiced pearl barley salad with the right balance of sweetness, tang, and nuttiness. Before we could focus on building these exciting flavors, we had to find a consistent cooking method for our barley. We wanted the grains to remain distinct, rather than cohesive as in a pilaf. We turned to what we call the “pasta method,” in which we simply boil the grains until tender. With our perfectly cooked barley set aside, we turned our attention back to flavor. Inspired by the flavors of Egypt, we incorporated toasty pistachios, tangy pomegranate molasses, and bright, vegetal cilantro, all balanced by warm, earthy spices and sweet golden raisins. Salty feta cheese, pungent scallions, and pomegranate seeds adorned the top of the dish for a colorful composed salad with dynamic flavors and textures. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, you can make your own (see here). Do not substitute hulled barley or hull-less barley in this recipe. If using quick cooking or presteamed barley (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this), you will need to decrease the barley cooking time in step 1.
- 1½ cups pearl barley
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅓ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped coarse
- 3 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (¾ cup)
- 6 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add barley and 1 tablespoon salt, return to boil, and cook until tender, 20 to 40 minutes. Drain barley, spread onto rimmed baking sheet, and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
- Whisk oil, molasses, cinnamon, cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add barley, raisins, cilantro, and pistachios and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread barley salad evenly on serving platter and arrange feta, scallions, and pomegranate seeds in separate diagonal rows on top. Drizzle with extra oil and serve.