Sweet onions and whole grains make for a hearty whole-grain salad. This barley salad makes a great lunch or side for a large gathering.
I believe barley is completely under-appreciated. As far as whole grains go, it hardly ever gets mentioned. Barley is hearty and filling. I love the nutty and chewy texture. It deserves to be the star of more dishes.
This grain salad is full of bold flavours that stand up to barley’s chewy-ness (completely a word, I’m certain of it).
Sundried tomatoes, parsley and toasted almonds tossed in a light orange based dressing. And a bunch of sweet onions add a fresh crunch.
I’ve added parmesan to meld all these great flavours together… the parm really makes the sundried tomatoes sing and adds an earthy saltiness to the dish. To make this salad vegan, you can skip the cheese entirely. But if you have access, I’d look for a good vegan hard cheese, it will add some saltiness and umami to the dish. I’m liking this one from Violife right now. You can find it at Foodland and other local stores.
That’s a lot of onions!
Don’t be afraid of the amount of onions in this salad.
First of all, use the sweetest onions you can find. I like Vidalias. They are relatively easy to find. Most supermarkets will carry them. Sweet onions are usually more squat and have larger juicer segments.
But also, you can remove some of their heat and pungency by soaking the raw onions in cool water before using. Just swish the sliced onions in cool water a few times, drain and repeat. You will end up with sweeter, more pleasant onions. All the flavour, less of the bite.
How to cook barley
I find the easiest way to cook barley is to cook it like pasta.
Bring 1 quart of salted water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan, add barley and cook until tender. About 45 minutes. To drain pour water and barley through a large mesh sieve. Let is sit in the sieve (I set it over the pot, so the sieve is not sitting in its liquid) and drain completely.
1 cup of dry barley will yield a bit more than 3 cups cooked.
I’ve used pearled barley in this recipe. Pot barley is a bit chewier and still has the hulls in tacked. It does have a bit more nutrition. I prefer the cleaner taste of pearled barley in this recipe.
A few more notes:
- This recipe starts with cooked grains. I often cook a batch of grains on the weekend (I use my rice cooker or instant pot) just to make quick work of recipes like this one. Before starting this recipe, consider that you will need time to cook the grains if you don’t already have some ready – see “How to Cook Barley” section above this.
- To make this recipe vegan, skip the parmesan cheese or use a plant-based substitute.
Barley Salad with Sweet Onions
- 1 vidella onion sliced into halve moons as thinly as possible
- juice from one large orange
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes sliced (or about 4 sundried tomatoes halves chopped)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds toasted
- 3 cups cooked barley or other cooked grain – quinoa, rice
- 1 bunch basil and parsley chopped
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional or use a vegan substitute)
- In a large bowl, add onions and cover with cool water. Swish the onions around a bit with your hand. The water will turn cloudy. Drain. Repeat. Pat the onions dry on a tea towel while you make the rest of the salad.
- In a small bowl whisk together juice from one large orange with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside
- In a large bowl toss together barley, sundried tomatoe, green onions, toasted almonds and vidella onion slices, breaking up any clumps of grains if needed. Drizzle with dressing and toss again. Add parsley or basil and parmesan cheese. Toss well. Serve