Warm Barley and Fennel Salad

This is a highly textured, aromatic, and flavorful salad that works well as a main meal or as a side with grilled fish or meat.  

Makes 6 servings.

1 cup barley
2 1/2 cups water, or as much as needed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, diced
12 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
12 olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola, pitted and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons lightly toasted, chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh parsley, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt, to taste


In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. Add barley; return to a boil for 2 minutes, then reduce to low, cover partially, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. If water evaporates, simply add a little more.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add diced fennel; saute 5-7 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender, but not mushy.

In a large bowl, add cooked barley, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and walnuts; toss lightly until well blended.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, crushed red pepper, and salt. Pour over the barley mixture and toss until well coated. Taste it and adjust seasonings accordingly. Garnish with additional fresh parsley, if desired.

Enjoy this salad warm, at room temperature, or chilled. It tastes even better after a day or two and makes excellent leftovers.