Barley Salad with Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

Barley Salad With Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette Served in a Large Bowl

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.

Barley Salad With Feta and Homemade Vinaigrette

Barley Salad with Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

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Prep25 mins
Cook1 hr
Total1 hr 25 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
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World’s Easiest Garlic Mashed Potatoes

World's Easiest Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Raise your hand if you’re a mashed potato lover!

(Pretty sure I see ~95% of the hands out there raised)

Do you ever make mashed potatoes at home? Or do you tend to wait for the holiday season and enjoy them with loads of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce?

If you haven’t tried making them at home, you’re in for a surprise. They are shockingly EASY!

World's Easiest Garlic Mashed Potatoes

And as easy as traditional mashed potatoes are, I’ve found a few ways to make them even easier.

  • First, choose a potato with thin skin. I like red potatoes or small yellow potatoes. Anything labeled as “new potato” will work, since these are potatoes that have been freshly harvested & don’t have a thick tough skin. These types of waxy potatoes have a nice creamy interior, and delicate skin with lots of earthy flavor, fiber, and nutrients. I skip the brown russet potatoes for this recipe because the skins are a little more tough, and the starchy interior doesn’t pair as well with creamy garlic.
  • Next, don’t even bother to peel them. Yep, you heard me correctly. I don’t even peel my potatoes. It saves so much time, and I actually prefer to leave the peels on to add some color and texture to my mashed potatoes. The peel contains most of the fiber and phytonutrients of a potato, so you’re doing yourself a huge favor by including them in your recipe.
  • Add garlic to the same cooking pot. Want garlic mashed potatoes? Don’t even bother with slow roasting the garlic and squeezing the goopy cloves into your potatoes at the end. I mean, yeah, you can put in that extra effort for a holiday meal or something, but on a weeknight? Nah. Instead, just peel a whole head of garlic and plop the cloves right into the potato pot. They boil with the potatoes and become nice and tender and creamy.
  • Drain and mash in the same pot. Since you already added the garlic to the same pot as your potatoes, you can simply drain the pot, add your butter, milk, salt, and pepper, and mash everything together. No extra dishes required.

World's Easiest Garlic Mashed Potatoes in a Bowl

These easy garlic mashed potatoes are one of my favorite kitchen hacks- I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

World's Easiest Garlic Mashed Potatoes Close-Up Shot

World's Easiest Mashed Potatoes

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Prep10 mins
Cook25 mins
Total35 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 3 lbs small red potatoes, halved (or quartered if they are larger)
  • 1 head peeled cloves of garlic
  • 1 stick, 8 tablespoons pasture raised butter
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Place the cubed potatoes and the peeled cloves of garlic in a large pot. Cover with several inches of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low boil, so that the potatoes don't fall apart, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain and return to the pot. Add the butter, milk, salt, and pepper and mash with a potato masher until the potatoes are smooth. Serve right away.
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Goes great with Turkey Meatloaf or Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak.

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Rice Cooker Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice in the Rice Cooker!

Restaurant style Mexican rice has been an ongoing struggle for me.

I loooove ordering it at restaurants, but every time I’ve tried to make it at home, it completely flops.

Instead of the delicious, fluffy, salty, chewy rice of my dreams, I get a gloppy, sticky, overly tomato-y mess. More like sticky Spanish rice… Which I love, but not as a side to fajitas or enchiladas!

What was I doing wrong???

Restaurant Style Mexican Rice in the Rice Cooker

Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything.

  1. I didn’t rinse my rice. Although I was already choosing the right type of rice (long grain white rice), I missed the all important step of rinsing it. Rice naturally has a powdery coating of starch on each grain, which dissolves into the cooking liquid, thickening it and creating a stickier batch of rice. If you rinse the rice before cooking, you wash away the starchy coating, and the rice grains don’t stick together as much while cooking. It makes it easier to get that fluffy texture you’re looking for.
  2. I skipped the saute. THIS is probably the number one tip. By sauteing the rinsed rice in a generous amount of oil, each grain develops a golden crust. This crust keeps each grain intact and gives the cooked rice a chewy, toothsome feel. Browning the rice is the secret to rice with plump, distinct grains, instead of a mushy pot with globs of rice.
  3. I forgot about the fresh mix-ins. Even if you follow all the steps, rinse the rice, saute the grains until golden, add delicious spices, and cook it in a flavorful broth…. Mexican rice just isn’t complete without a few extra mix-ins. Fresh lime juice and cilantro give the rice a fresh zing, and deepen the layers of flavor. Without the fresh ingredients, the rice can feel a little one-note. Don’t skip the fresh stuff!

These, my friends, are the secrets to amazing restaurant-style mexican rice.

And guess what? I raise you one.

I made it in a rice cooker!

Yep, that means that once you’ve toasted the rice & pureed your tomato/onion/garlic mixture, you combine everything in the rice cooker & set it and forget it. Leaving you tons of time to finish the rest of dinner, and you never have to worry about burnt rice.

Enjoy this one. It’s a keeper!

Amazingly Delicious Mexican Rice Recipe

Rice Cooker Mexican Rice

4.7 from 6 votes
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Prep20 mins
Cook40 mins
Total1 hr
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, about 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup high-heat safe oil, like grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic cloves in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
  • Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water under the faucet until the water runs clear. Shake dry and set aside.
  • Pour the oil into a large nonstick skillet and warm over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice turns a light golden brown. When the rice is golden, add the cumin, coriander, salt, and tomato paste to the pan. Stir with a spatula to combine, and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.
  • Use the spatula to remove the rice from the pan to and transfer it to a rice cooker. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato mixture from the blender and 2 cups of chicken broth. Stir to combine, close the rice cooker, and cook on the white rice setting until done.
  • When the rice is done cooking, remove from the rice cooker and transfer to a large bowl. Fluff with a fork and stir in the minced cilantro and fresh lime juice. Add more salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.
Tried this recipe?Mention or tag @ericajulson !

Goes great with Salsa Verde Chicken Fajitas or Pork Chile Verde.

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