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Feta + Walnut Barley Salad with Shallot Dressing

January 30, 2024

A plate of grain and vegetable salad covered in crumbled feta cheese on a cutting board surrounded by more feta, walnuts, and pink napkins.

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This nutritious grain salad is endlessly customizable and is a great make-ahead meal! Meal prep lunch, anyone?

The Story

I love pasta and I love bread. And rice. All kinds of rice. But I am not often a fan of the other grains the world has to offer. I am super reluctant to eat quinoa, millet is kinda meh to me, and I never even think about polenta.

When I'm planning the dinners for our week, I try to keep a balance of flora vs. fauna proteins, nutrition-focused vs. purely fun dishes, as well as a variety of grains and vegetables. And because I love pasta and rice, those tend to be the grains favored.

This salad came about from an attempt to diversify the grain intake in our week and I made it with whatever I happened to have at that time. It was so good, that:

1. I have continued making it almost identically to that first iteration and -
2. I felt it was worthy of being shared with you!

Ingredients in jars and dishes- zucchini, parsnips, red onion, walnuts, dried barley, spices, carrots, olive oil, and olives are all visible.

Ingredient notes -

Veggies: This can be made with any roasting veggies you have on hand. Definitely use an onion of some kind and then about 4-5 cups of chopped veggies. I have used mushrooms, turnips, and sweet potatoes in the past, but I imagine cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower would be excellent choices.

Feta: I am not a fan of pre-crumbled feta. Instead, look for a block feta in brine for the best flavor. Or leave it out completely for a vegan version of this dish!

Barley: Barley comes pearled or hulled. Pearled barley (what I call for here) is quicker cooking, whereas hulled barley requires soaking and a longer cooking time, but is more nutritious. You can absolutely make this salad with hulled barely, but you will have to adjust how you prepare it. (I recommend following the package instructions!)

Salt: Salinity to volume varies by brand and type. I (almost) always use Diamond Crystal Kosher in my recipes. If you use Morton's Kosher or regular table salt, use half the amount by volume, or the same by weight.

A plate of barley salad with crumbled feta and a lemon wedge on the side.

The Recipe

makes 4-5 servings of salad


For the veggies

  • 1 small red onion (about 1 cup or 122g), peeled and cubed
  • 2 carrots (about 1 cup or 146g), peeled and cubed
  • 1 parsnip (about 1 cup or 153g), peeled and cubed
  • 1 large zucchini (about 2 cups or 286g), cubed
  • 3 TB (41g) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp each: smoked paprika, dried oregano, ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt (if using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt - see note above)

For the dressing

  • 1 shallot (about 5 TB or 44 g), minced
  • 6 garlic cloves (about 3 TB or 30g), minced
  • 1/3 cup (75g) olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each: ground coriander, black pepper, salt (if using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt - see note above)
  • 3 TB (43g) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TB (14g) lemon juice

The rest of the things

  • 1 cup (125g) walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (90g) olives, chopped (any kind you like)
  • 8 oz (227g) feta, crumbled
  • 2-3 scallions (1/3 cup or 18g), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (200g) uncooked pearled barley
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To Make

1. Toast the walnuts

Heat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC. Place 1 cup walnuts on a small ungreased sheet tray and toast until fragrant, about 7-9 minutes. Do set a timer because nuts burn very easily! Remove from the oven and set aside.

Toasted walnuts on a sheet tray

2. Roast the veggies,

Raise the oven temp to 450ºF/230ºC. Add 1 small red onion, 2 carrots, 1 parsnip, 1 large zucchini, 4 TB olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp each: smoked paprika, dried oregano, ground coriander, and 1/2 tsp salt to a lined sheet tray and toss to combine. Add to the oven (it's okay if the temp is still rising) and roast, tossing once or twice during the cooking time, until tender and starting to brown on the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven (you can turn it off now!) and set aside.

Veggies on a tray pre-roasting, covered in spices.

3. Cook the barley

Add 1 cup barley, 3 cups of water, and a generous sprinkle of salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender but not mushy, about 15-25 minutes. I start tasting for doneness around 10 minutes. If there is extra water but the barley has a pleasant texture, drain through a fine colander or sieve. Set aside.

Cooked barley in a sieve

3. Make the dressing

Add 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 shallot, and 6 cloves of garlic to a small pan over low heat. Cook low and slow, stirring occasionally, until very soft but not brown, around 15 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp each ground coriander and black pepper and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 tsp salt, 3 TB apple cider vinegar, and 1 TB lemon juice.

A pan of oil on a stove with minced garlic and shallots poaching. Little bubbles are visible.

4. Assemble the salad

In your favorite large bowl, combine the barley, walnuts, veggies, and dressing, along with 2-3 scallions, and 1/2 cup olives. Toss well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper, but beware that feta will be added and it is quite salty!

All the ingredients in a blue and white bowl prior to mixing.

5. To serve

(This can be served warm, room temp, or chilled. I prefer it chilled for an hour or two minimum, but it's good right away!) Spoon your preferred amount of barley salad onto a cute plate. Crumble feta on top, add a fresh crack of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Dig in!

Close up of the completed salad, served on a white dish and absolutely covered in feta cheese.

I hope you make and enjoy this recipe!

Thank you for being here!

💖, Katrina



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