Mediterranean Vegetable and Grain Salad

This was last week’s offering for the pot luck dinner. Much less work than tonight’s dish.

One cup of the same old baked barley I’m always talking about. 375 degree oven, 3 cups of water, one hour. Blah blah blah.

While that is cooking, in the food processor combine

  • a dozen cloves of roasted garlic (I make huge batches of this by getting bulk peeled garlic at Costco)
  • lemon juice (a fair bit)
  • olive oil (to match, you’re making a dressing)
  • red pepper flake
  • smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • sumac
  • thyme (dried)
  • sesame seeds
  • cumin
  • oregano (dried)
  • cilantro (dried)

Render that into a dressing.
Course chop the following (either in the processor or by hand)

  • green, black and kalamata olives.
  • artichoke hearts
  • one can stewed tomatoes
  • capers

Toss the barley (after it has cooled and been fluffed) and the chopped veggies with a can of garbanzo beans and a can of black beans. Toss in the dressing.

Salads like this taste best if allowed to mellow overnight, but taste just fine after a couple of hours setting up. Served immediately upon combining, they will seem flat in a way you can’t put your finger on, somehow.

Sautéed Spinach of Shrinking

I have finally learned that boiling spinach should result in a night in the stocks.  Many nutrients end up in the water and often the result can be mush.  Steaming spinach is a great alternative, but there are just so many options that can be explored with steamed spinach.  So I took a long look at my inventory tab and decided to try a duel between a pile of spinach and a skillet.  When this starts out in the skillet, the spinach seems like it will win, but after a short time in the heat of sautéing the spinach ultimately gives up and shrinks into tasty, tender leaves.  The fun variation with this recipe is the oil.  With so few ingredients, the type and quality of oil used really stands out and can change the flavor dramatically.  I typically use a #8 cast iron pan for this with a lid.  Alternatively I suspect a “dutch oven” (or similar item) could be used.  The goal is to keep the spinach and steam contained.

Heat 1T of oil in the pan over medium heat.  Add 1T of minced garlic and let that cook for a couple minutes.  Add spinach and 1t of sesame seeds.  Stir around to coat everything with oil (that part is easier with a larger pot – in the skillet I carefully flip clumps of leaves using tongs).  Add 1T of water.  Cover.  Reduce heat to low for about 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

Continue reading