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Barley gets a summer look in this vegetable-loaded black bean salad

2 days ago 21

This recipe is an invitation to see barley in a new light — the bright light of summer. The grain is so commonly associated with belly-warming winter soup, it’s like a popular sitcom actor who is forever pigeonholed into the one narrow role that made them famous. This dish lets the supremely healthful grain show off its true versatility.

Just like farro or quinoa, barley is excellent when cooked and chilled — it’s tender and mildly nutty, with a delightful chew — and it begs to be tossed with crisp, colorful produce for a change.

To cook barley, you simply boil it in water until it’s tender, then drain it and let it cool. The cooking time will depend on the type of barley you have, so it’s best to follow the directions on the package. Choosing it at the store can be daunting because the three main varieties have somewhat cryptic names: hulless, hulled and pearled.

Hulless barley is a variety that grows without a hull, hence the name, so it barely needs any processing before being packaged. Hulled barley is the traditional variety, with its tough hull removed but bran kept intact. And pearled barley has been polished to remove both the hull and bran layers. Hulless and hulled barley are both considered whole-grain and have a somewhat deeper flavor and longer cooking time, while pearled barley, which is not a whole grain, has a milder taste and cooks more quickly.

All barley varieties are rich in beta glucan, a type of soluble fiber, which offers bona fide health benefits, including supporting gut health and helping to reduce cholesterol, so get whatever type you prefer or is available.

In this recipe, the grain eschews the soup pot in favor of a big, colorful salad bowl, with black beans, chunks of crunchy red cabbage, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber, and quick-pickled radishes and red onion. Those pickled vegetables take the salad to another level, offering an exciting pop of tanginess and crunch throughout. Tossed with a bright lemon-olive oil dressing and topped with slices of buttery avocado, it’s a substantial meal that sings of summer.

Try it and experience for yourself how beautifully barley shines in salad, too.

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