I always seem to overdo it on the weekends. Between the excesses of date night on Friday and Sunday dinner at my Italian mother-in-law’s, I frequently start Monday feeling like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman…(in terms of bloating, not like I want to destroy apartment buildings or anything). I’d really like to become as conscious about what I’m putting in my mouth from Friday night through Sunday as I am Monday through Friday. Today, a Saturday, I found myself feeling a little guilty–and, extraordinarily, still a little full–from the Culver’s Oreo and cookie dough concrete mixer I allowed myself on date night last night. (If you don’t believe me, or if you want to feel a tremendous amount of shame for ever having eaten one, check out the jaw-dropping nutrition facts on concrete mixers.) Seriously, wow.
So this Saturday noon found me with the desire for something light and healthy for lunch. Weekend lunches at our house are usually cobbled together with random bits of whatever is left from the week–my husband always says I grocery shop as though a week has only 5 days. Sometimes the results are tasty, sometimes less so. (Tomato-shrimp omelet, anyone?) Today I realized that I had everything needed to make this creamy apple barley salad we had once before and I for one had really liked. It comes from one of my Real Simple cookbooks. What I love about Real Simple is that their recipes truly stand up to the name–more often than not, I have all the ingredients on hand. They make great use of standbys like salt and pepper, wine vinegars, Dijon mustard, yogurt, lemon juice, etc. Love it when I don’t have to run out and buy $5 oyster sauce I’ll use one tablespoon of in a year. (But, hey, no judgment if you’re an oyster sauce nut.)
This recipe pairs the sweet crunch of apple and chewiness of barley against the backdrop of tangy Dijon and yogurt. Toss on top of a bed of spinach and/or arugula and boom, it’s a salad! I added a bit of feta to give it some extra oomph, since this was my lunch in its entirety. (Adding cheese to stuff may actually be the best thing about being a semi-vegetarian.) Cheese or no cheese, though, this makes a nice light lunch or an interesting side salad for a simple entree like grilled chicken or fish.
Creamy Apple Barley Salad
(Adapted from Real Simple Best Recipes: Easy, Delicious Meals)
1/2 c. pearl barley
salt and pepper
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large apple, thinly sliced
1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped
4 1/2 c. fresh spinach, arugula, or mixed greens
1. In a medium saucepan, combine barley, 1 1/2 c. water, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes, until water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add the celery, apple, mint, and cooked barley and toss to combine.
3. In individual bowls, divide the greens. Top with the barley mixture.
Serves 2-3 as a main dish, 4 as a side salad.