Chewy, nutty, pearl barley isn’t just for soups.
Here, we’ve made it the star of an impressive and unique salad, inspired by the flavors of Egypt, and a hearty bowl that’s full of contrasting — and surprising — textures and Middle Eastern flavors.
We employed two methods of preparing the barley: pressure cooking for the salad and boiling for the bowl.
Pearl barley is a great candidate for the multicooker; by cooking the grains in plenty of water, similar to our method for brown rice, they cooked perfectly and evenly. After draining the barley, we spread it on a baking sheet so that it would cool quickly.
With our perfected barley finished, we incorporated toasty pistachios, tangy pomegranate molasses and bright cilantro, all balanced by warm, earthy spices and sweet golden raisins. You can find pomegranate molasses in the international aisle of most well-stocked supermarkets.
Salty feta cheese, pungent scallions and sweet-tart pomegranate seeds adorn the top of the salad for a colorful and tasty finish.
To keep the cooking method easy for our bowl, we simply boiled the barley in a large pot. This made the individual grains tender and kept them distinct and light. We tossed the warm barley with a bright lemon-mint dressing so the grains would readily soak it up.
While the barley cooked, we pan-roasted coriander-dusted spears of carrots until charred, sweet and tender. We then threw in crisp snow peas and cooked them until just blistered, so they would retain their green freshness.
Toasting sunflower seeds with cumin, cardamom and a little more coriander gave the dish a warm, aromatic finish. We piled a mound of the dressed barley and vegetables into our bowls, followed by our crunchy seed topping.
Finally, to pull all the components of the bowl together, we needed a drizzle of sauce, and our tahini sauce was a creamy, zesty addition.
For these recipes, do not substitute hulled, hull-less, quick-cooking or presteamed barley (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this).
EGYPTIAN BARLEY SALAD
Start to finish: 1 hour for pressure cooking, 2 hours for slow cooking
11/2 cups pearl barley
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped coarse
3 ounces feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (3/4 cup)
6 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
In a multicooker, combine 12 cups water, the barley and 1 tablespoon salt.
To pressure cook: Lock lid in place, and close pressure release valve. Select high pressure cook function, and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off multicooker, and let pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Quick-release any remaining pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
To slow cook: Bring mixture to simmer using highest sauté or browning function. Lock lid in place, and open pressure release valve. Select low slow cook function, and cook until barley is tender, 30 minutes to 11/2 hours. (If using Instant Pot, select high slow cook function.) Turn off multicooker, and carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
Drain the barley, spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the oil, molasses, cinnamon, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl. Add the cooled barley, raisins, cilantro and pistachios, and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread barley salad evenly into a serving dish, and arrange the feta, scallions and pomegranate seeds in separate diagonal rows on top. Drizzle with extra oil, and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 362 calories; 119 calories from fat; 13 g fat (3 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 13 mg cholesterol; 336 mg sodium; 54 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 9 g protein.
BARLEY BOWL WITH ROASTED CARROTS AND SNOW PEAS
Start to finish: 1 hour, 10 minutes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
11/2 cups pearl barley
Salt and pepper
5 carrots, peeled
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
8 ounces snow peas, strings removed, halved lengthwise
2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup tahini sauce (recipe follows)
Whisk 21/2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons mint, and the lemon zest and juice together in a large bowl, set aside.
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add the barley and 1 tablespoon salt, return to boil, and cook until tender, 20-40 minutes.
Drain the barley, transfer to bowl with the lemon-mint mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.
While barley cooks, halve the carrots crosswise, then halve or quarter lengthwise to create uniformly sized pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the carrots and 1/2 teaspoon coriander, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly charred and just tender, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the snow peas, and cook until spotty brown, 3-5 minutes; transfer to a second bowl.
In the now-empty skillet, heat remaining 11/2 teaspoons oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the sunflower seeds, cumin, cardamom, remaining 1/4 teaspoon coriander and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until seeds are toasted, about 2 minutes; transfer to a third bowl.
Divide the barley among individual bowls, then top with carrot-snow pea mixture and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with the tahini sauce, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon mint and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 513 calories; 262 calories from fat; 29 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 242 mg sodium; 55 g carbohydrate; 13 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 13 g protein.
Makes about 11/4 cups
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
Whisk the tahini, water, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl until smooth. Season with salt to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature, and stir to combine before serving.)