Maria Speck's Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing

Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing

Adapted from Maria Speck in Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

Serves 4


2 cups water

1/4 cup pearl barley
1 (2-by-1-inch) strip of lemon zest (optional)

3 peppercorns

pinch of fine sea salt

Salad, and to Finish

1 lemon

5 fresh figs, sliced into 8 pieces

2 stalks diced celery

1/2 cup finely chopped green onion (about 4)

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Prepare the barley by combining all the barley ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan and bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pot, cooking until the barley is just tender--30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid and transfer the barley to a large bowl to cool. Remove the zest and peppercorns. You can do this a day or even a few days in advance and keep the cooled cooked barley in the refrigerator until you make the salad. At that point, take it out of the fridge an hour or so before you make the salad to bring it to room temperature and then stir it up or break clumps up with your fingers to separate the grains.

To make the dressing, finely grate the zest of the lemon to get 2 teaspoons zest. Squeeze the lemon to get one or two tablespoons of juice. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and honey. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in 1 tablespoon each of the tarragon and parsley.

In a large bowl, add the barley, figs, celery, green onion, pine nuts, and fig slices. Mix well, then add dressing and toss to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Toss again and sprinkle with the remaining herbs. Serve.