Cleansing the palate: Parsley & barley salad

Me & Tabbouleh (A Love Story): My older sister Elena is responsible for introducing me to countless awesome things (and way too many to go into here!). One of those things is tabbouleh. The year was approximately 1993 and the setting is some hippie cafe in Austin where Elena was attending the University of Texas. Elena insisted I try tabbouleh. Being a kid, I loved the word ‘tabbouleh’. It just rolls off the tongue so nicely. Since I had (and still have) a serious love of sourness, the first thing I noticed when I tried it that first time was the lemony bite. No two tabboulehs are ever the same, and some are much more lemony than others. This one is not over-the-top with its lemon but it does a nifty job of highlighting the freshness of the parsley. Ok, even though according to the authors it’s not “technically” tabbouleh [see below], it’s pretty close. Since I can never resist tabbouleh, I was pretty excited to taste the finished product.

(Not) Tabbouleh: At first glance, this parsley and tabbouleh salad looks curiously similar to what you might think is tabbouleh. But, the authors explain, people in Jerusalem and the surrounding region feel very strongly about the names of dishes and even though this is definitely tabbouleh inspired, many would not consider it such.

parsley&barley prepped ingredients

The ingredients

Ingredients (click here for the full recipe!)

  • pearl barley*
  • feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • za’atar
  • coriander seeds
  • cumin
  • flat leaf parsley
  • green onions
  • garlic
  • cashews, lightly toasted
  • green pepper
  • allspice
  • lemon juice, freshly squeezed (and don’t you DARE think of using that crap out of a yellow bottle!)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

*Extra Credit for the Hard Core Health Nuts: I just read in the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine that pearl barley is less nutritious than the other varieties since the hull, the most nutritious part, has been removed. I don’t really care about that too much in this recipe since everything else is pretty stinkin’ healthy. However, the authors advise that you can substitute the pearl barley with spelt, farro, or wheat berries, all of which are more healthful.

What Does 3 oz of Parsley Look Like? I have no idea. Nor have I shelled out the money for a fancy digital kitchen scale (for now…) to weigh the parsley to know exactly. I pretty much just chopped up the two bunches of parsley I bought in groups and kept mixing the little piles in with the other ingredients until what I had before me resembled the photo in the cookbook.

toasted cashews

Toasted cashews

Bro, I’m So Toasted: Not that I am complaining about this recipe taking too long to prepare, because at about 1 hour of prep time, it’s actually one of the faster recipes in the book, but sometimes I get mildly annoyed for thinking something’s only going to take half an hour to prepare because I didn’t pay attention to some of the little details. With this recipe, those little overlooked details included the time it would take me to toast the coriander seeds (good luck not letting those little jerks roll all over your counter) and the raw cashews.

feta marinating

Feta marinating with dry herbs & olive oil

Cleanse Your Palate: The cookbook recommends this be served with a rich dish, such as the Chicken with Carmelized Onion and Cardamom Rice. I have already made that dish and just you wait until I make it again and write about it here! Until then, feast your eyes on this food porn video of it being made from the good people of The New York Times’ Dining section. This salad is so refreshing and a great palate cleanser so it will go well with any rich, fatty, meaty dish.

parsley & barley salad

Parsley & barley salad

A Study in Contrasting Textures: Something I have to say about the recipes from chef Yottam Ottolenghi and his crew are that they’re pretty much always a study in contrasting textures. This salad is no exception. The parsley intermingling with the al dente barley plus the salty little chunks of beautifully seasoned feta—it’s a serious party in your mouth, folks. Go ahead, go back up to the link above and cook it yourself!

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5 comments

  1. Digital kitchen scales are relatively inexpensive depending, of course, on size, options, and architecture. My wife and I have a small scale from The Sharper Image we use quite often. I imagine it’s not the best brand and it is battery powered. If you’re looking for quality akin to Kitchen Aid’s retro (indestructible yet super expensive) mixer, then look elsewhere. Functionally, it’s great to finally measure anything that isn’t a serving divisible by cups, fluid ounces, or tablespoons. I think you would be surprised by how often you’d use it—we’re clearly less skilled in the kitchen. It’s been a worthwhile investment for us.

    And, yes, keep Austin weird.

    Great post.

    1. It is one of the little kitchen appliances/gadgets that I have on my list. I also really want a mandoline, especially for using with the recipes from this cookbook because there’s usually a lot of vegetable prepping involved in them.

      This might be a silly question, but what types of ingredients do you end up using the scale to measure the most?

      When I was in Austin last summer I was a little shocked to see just how much farther and farther it’s gotten from its weird heyday. Lots of fancy new condos and spiffy looking places. It’s a very different place than the one depicted in Slacker.

  2. A very interesting palette you have. My present palette is more on the Caribbean side, so this particular dish is definitely foreign to me. I have never seen or heard of toasted cashews. How exactly is that done? I found it humorous that you mention the weighing of the parsley in your blog, because I think most non-professional cooks do not. We tend to make very good rough estimates and let the chips fall where they may. I am surprised that the prep time for this dish is so long. The more surprising fact is you mentioned it is one of the shorter recipes. I am presently still working on my patience when it comes to cooking, the suspense time is grueling sometimes. What is your absolute favorite dish or food to eat?

    1. Ouu, Caribbean food is delicious. I have not had very much of it but I have enjoyed the dishes I’ve tried. What’s your favorite Caribbean dish?

      I’m definitely more accustomed to roasted and salted cashews and had not ever toasted them before I had to for this recipe. It deepens the flavor of them and adds a really subtle note to them.

      I try to be precise with measurements but sometimes I just do it by feel and the parsley in this recipe is definitely an example of that. Yes, even though this is a simple dish it take a while to put together even though it is one of the less time-consuming recipes. I don’t really mind the time factor because I find all of the prep work and cooking relaxing. I usually try to estimate how long it will take me to make but I seem to always underestimate!

      If I have to pick one favorite dish, I will have to say Thai green curry and one that’s on the spicy side. It’s one of my go-to dishes when I eat at Thai places and I’ve made it at home a number of times.

  3. I do not remember this tabbouleh incident but I am not surprised in the least. I suspect it was your gateway food to this case of Jerusalem Syndrome you have. I will take responsibility and continue to enable you and encourage this behavior!
    I’m thinking a mandoline for you will have more benefits than a digital scale. I’ll start researching some.

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