Though this one could have just as easily been called "Barley Salad with Beets, Feta, and Red Onion." Or "Beet and Feta Salad with..." Ok, you get the idea.
The real point is that with these basic ingredients, you get all the chewiness, crunchiness, earthiness, saltiness and piquant-ness that you could ever want in a salad.
Inspired by one we saw at a local coffee shop, we see many summer picnics in this salad's future!
One of the things that makes this salad special is cutting all the ingredients down to the same size--about equal to a grain of barley. This way, you get a bit of everything in each spoonful and the flavors really come together.
Feel free to play with the proportions of each ingredient. I love beets, so I upped those quite a bit (which is likely why my salad is so shockingly pink!). You could just as easily put in more feta or use a different grain.
The only ingredient to be careful of is the red onion, since they can easily overpower all the other flavors. As it is, soak the red onions in water for a half an hour or so before mixing them into the salad to mellow out the spiciness a bit.
Roasted Beet Salad with Barley, Feta, and Red Onion Makes about 5 cups
1 cup dry pearl barley 4 medium beets, tops removed 1/2 large red onion (about 1 cup), minced and soaked in cold water for 1/2 hour 1/2 block of feta (about 4 ounces), cut into small squares or crumbled 4-5 scallions, sliced into fine rounds 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice 1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil salt and pepper to taste extra sliced scallions for garnish
Heat the oven to 450-degrees.
Loosely wrap the beets in tin foil and roast in the oven until they are just fork tender--30 - 45 minutes. Peel and dice the beets into small cubes.
Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the barley and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the barley is al dente, about 30 minutes. If there is extra liquid in the pot, drain the barley and return it to the pan. Cover with a clean dishtowel until ready to use.
Drain the red onion.
Combine barley, beets, red onion, feta, and scallions in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice and olive oil over the top and toss to coat.
Taste the mixture. As needed, add salt 1/4 teaspoon at a time (the feta is really salty!). Pepper to taste.
Serve family-style in a large bowl or in individual bowls. Garnish with extra scallions.