The transition between summer and fall is one of the most fun to play with in the kitchen.
You can still find delicious summer tomatoes and herbs, but hints of fall begin to creep in. Succulently sweet figs, juicy persimmons, freshly picked walnuts, and everyone’s favorite, pumpkin.
So what does the logical cook do?
Throw it all together in a bowl, of course!
Simply follow the formula: grain + nut + cheese + vegetables + vinaigrette.
You can’t go wrong. And it works at any time of year.
This particular weekend, I chose the following:
- Pearled Barley. It’s relatively quick cooking & doesn’t require a pre-soak, holds it shape & texture well, and absorbs the flavors of whatever vinaigrette you pour over it.
- Walnuts. California’s first walnut harvest just took place, so, you know, I had to.
- Feta Cheese. Probably my #1 go-to. I’m sort of obsessed with the mild tang it provides.
- Cherry Tomatoes. For a juicy pop of freshness in each bite, extra color, and a hint of sweetness.
- Baby Spinach. Perfect for lightening up a grain-based salad & adding extra nutrients.
- Orange. Because… I haven’t made an orange vinaigrette in awhile, and it gives the salad a little more of a fall/winter vibe.
- Shallot. More mild than an onion & perfect for some extra bite without being overpowering.
I love giant salads like these, because they’re just so easy.
Prep all the individual components (which is pretty easy here- just boil the barley, zest & juice some citrus, quarter some cherry tomatoes, roughly chop baby spinach, and mince a shallot), and toss it all together.
Goes great with some fresh fish (we served it with tuna), grilled shrimp, or any other light protein you enjoy.
- 2 cups uncooked pearled barley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Zest and juice of 1 cara cara orange
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup minced shallot
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning to taste
- 5 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
Place the barley in a large saucepan and fill the pot with water. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until al dente. Drain, place in a large serving bowl, and set aside to cool.
While the barley cools, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, shallot, olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper.
When the barley is room temperature, add the spinach, walnuts, feta cheese, and cherry tomatoes to the serving bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and enjoy! Goes great with a high quality piece of seafood.