At the local farmer’s market last weekend, I loaded up my bags with a ridiculous amount of produce. Peaches and berries and peppers and onions and greens and melons and lots and lots of corn. Really, I completely lost control.
I have a particular reverence, bordering on awe, of the farmers who are able to produce such bounty, and thus have a need to support them with my hard-earned cash. You see, as I happen to be an eternal optimist, I earnestly devote a small plot of the back yard to growing a vegetable garden every year. And in every case (this is, ahem, attempt number 12 or so in house number 4) the local wildlife seem to put out some sort of all-points bulletin about the buffet growing in the back garden of House Morell and descend upon the space with gusto. The birds helped themselves to all the blueberries, the deer lopped off the tops of the tomatoes and sunflowers, and the bunnies and squirrels seem to be nibbling on everything but the herbs. Thus far I have produced exactly three rather tiny (but delicious) cherry tomatoes, four green beans, one yellow banana pepper and one jalapeno. My family would starve if I had to produce their food. Thank God for farmers and their markets…
… And this gorgeous corn.
I was looking for a fun recipe to highlight this corn, and decided to riff on a recipe I tore out of Food and Wine last year with some of my favorite elements. Obviously, I always love an amazing salad, especially during the summer, when you want to keep meal prep super easy.
I love to add the substance of a grain to a salad… in the case, barley played a starring role. Chuck full of nutrients, barley has a chewy, almost pasta-like consistency. Toasted walnuts add a warm, nutty taste and a nice bit of crunch. I then tossed in a couple handfuls of slivered basil and chopped chives, and a generous portion of crumbled feta cheese. Goat cheese would also work with this combo, if you prefer. The flavors blended wonderfully, particularly when I tossed in a bit of lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil as a dressing. So simple…
I can’t stop eating this stuff. It was absolutely delicious as a side salad to BLTs, but it could also easily be a main dish salad for lunch or dinner.
I’m headed back out to my garden now. I need to harvest some mint before it takes over the entire plot. This may call for some mojitos. It’s not exactly helping to feed the family, but it does prove the effort is not all for naught.
Corn and Barley Salad with Walnuts, Feta Cheese, and Basil
Adapted from a recipe found in Food and Wine, August 2015
Serves: 8-10 as a side
- 1 cup pearled barley
- ¾ cup walnuts
- 3 cups cooked corn kernels (from about 4 ears)
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- 2 tablespoons cup snipped chives
- ½ cup feta cheese (goat cheese would work well here as well)
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the barley until just tender, about 25 minutes.
- Drain well and set out on a plate to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 12 minutes, until golden.
- Let cool, then coarsely chop.
- In a bowl, toss the barley with the corn, walnuts, and all the remaining ingredients.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.
- Serve at room temperature.