Monday, February 4, 2013

This is it

Parsley and barley salad
If in the past year or so there was a cookbook that I reached for most, one whose pages caught the spatter of sauce and oil and cream more than any other, it was definitely Nigel Slater's Tender. I cooked from it a lot, and we ate really well, all year long. But this year, it's my feeling that things will be a little different. This, I think, might just be the year of Jerusalem. And, as I'm sure you've already heard, this cookbook is one that dazzles, one that overflows with colour and stories and bold, brilliant flavours. So I won't say much more about it. I'll just say this--I cooked from it all weekend, and, friends, this is a cookbook rich in small splendours. It is one hard to pull away from. I can't wait to cook from it again.
Parsley to be chopped The rest Salad again
The dish from this past weekend that I want to share with you is one, I think, that between dishes like roasted chicken with clementines and arak and burnt eggplant with garlic, lemon, and pomegranate seeds is easy to overlook. Parsley and barley salad. It sounds about as uninteresting as can be. But it isn't. This salad is bright, bold, and vibrant. The parsley, with its peppery, anise notes, definitely leads, but then there's the creamy za'atar-marinated feta, the crunchy bits of sweet green pepper, the delicate barley, the crushed, roasted cashews, the sharp scallion. I don't know about you, but come February, I'm starved for clean, bright, simple foods. I need something to counter the inevitable heaviness of winter, the rich stews, the parade of roasted root vegetables. I need something that will wake me up. This salad is it. Confetti for the parade. Let it fall on your plate, and you'll see.
I've made this salad a couple of times now and have eaten it just on its own as a late dinner and alongside a number of other things. I think it went particularly well with roasted, cumin-spiced cauliflower. But it's pretty versatile. Think of it as a sort-of wintery tabbouleh, (for those months when tomatoes are just unthinkable).

Parsley and Barley Salad
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem
Note: About the barley. This salad is all about the parsley. Even so, I do like to add a little more barley than is called for, but do what you will. About the za'atar. Za'atar is a blend of dried thyme, sumac, and roasted sesame seeds. The blend I bought also has oregano and hyssop in it, which I'm not sure I'm all that crazy about, but it's easy enough to make your own at home. About the feta. It's really important to get a good, creamy feta for this salad. It serves as a counterpoint to the sharpness of the salad's other ingredients. None of this insipid, watery stuff.

40-55 g / scant 1/4 - 1/3 cup pearl barley (see above)
150 g / 5 oz good, creamy feta cheese
5 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon za'atar
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
80 g / scant 3 oz flat-leaf parsley (2-3 bunches), leaves and fine stems
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
40 g / 1/3 cup cashews, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the pearl barley in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, and boil for 30-35 minutes, until tender but with a bite. Pour into a fine sieve, shake to remove all the water, and transfer to a large bowl.
Break the feta into rough pieces, about 3/4 inch / 2 cm in size, and mix in a small bowl with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the za'atar, the coriander seeds, and the cumin. Gently mic together and leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Chop the parsley finely and place in the bowl with the green onions, garlic, cashew nuts, pepper, allspice, lemon juice, the remaining olive oil, and the cooked barley. Mix together well and season to taste. To serve, divide the salad among four plates and top with the marinated feta.
Serves 4.


  1. As much as I've heard rave reviews about Jerusalem, I can't believe I haven't gotten myself a copy yet. This salad is stunning! I love those rich green colors. Another reason I need to make that purchase!

    1. Thanks, Marie. Jerusalem is so, so worth it. I don't know what winter is like in Texas, but if it's at all dreary, well, Jerusalem is a serious winter remedy.

  2. This looks so great, Katie! I like how you framed this as a winter version of tabbouleh. I hope I get a chance to make it soon-- like you, tasting the really fresh flavors that are in almost every recipe of Jerusalem just feels so right this time of year. I'm hoping that this year will be the "year of Jerusalem" for me, too. (This might be one cookbook, though, that I really don't want to get oil-stained or splattered with food!)

    Oh, and just so you know, I think you forgot to add the cashews on this list of ingredients. At least my eyes couldn't find them, haha.

    1. Yeah, I try to keep my cookbooks pristine, but it's already too late for this one. The page with this salad got some water dribbled on it. Oh well!

      Thanks for spotting that. Cashews are there now.

  3. I don't need to tell you: I'm a zealot. (And, of course, have a special place in my heart for Nigel too.) Have yet to make this recipe though (with all the chocolate krantz-ing I've been doing and all). This recipe has just filtered to the top of my list, though.

    Something tells me that if I lived in Chicago (instead of Boston) we'd be fast friends.

    1. That chocolate krantz. I'm swooning just thinking about it.

      Well, if you're ever in town, let me know, and we'll have to break bread together somewhere.

  4. Insipid, watery stuff ... you kill me :). I'm on the lookout for this book kind of food baby!

  5. I received the book yesterday morning and this is the first recipe I made, that same day, for lunch. I just replaced the green bell pepper with celery, as I didn't have pepper. It worked well with celery, and we really enjoyed the salad. I love your pictures!

    1. Darya, thanks for letting us know! Should you be so inclined to make it again, I do recommend trying it with the green pepper. It adds a particular sweetness to the salad that I think is nice.

    2. Oh I definitely will, it's just that it isn't that easy to find acceptable-looking green bell peppers where I live this time of the year! I can imagine how delicious it would taste though, and will try it out as soon as I can!

  6. MMM... I am eating this salad right now. so delicious!! Thank you for posting it, as I have not bought the book. I do love Plenty, though, so maybe Jerusalem is up next! (wouldn't mind if you shared some more recipes in the meantime :)

    1. Glad that you like it so much!

      Plenty is a great book, but my feeling is that I'm going to get more out of Jerusalem than I ever did Plenty. I can't quite put my finger on the difference. Jerusalem just somehow feels more accessible, less fussy, maybe, more versatile? It probably has something to do with the meat section. There are probably four or five different meatball-type recipes! But even if you're a vegetarian, the book has beautiful and wide-ranging vegetable and dessert sections. If you can take a look at the book in person, you should. It's gorgeous. (Am I the only person who buys books at a brick and mortar store anymore?)