One thing that has kept me going in my season of loss and change (besides the support of my family and friends of course) has been cooking. When I first got back from Montana, I jumped into what I described as my "therapy" baking. I made some amazing sweet treats like Southern Living’s Mississippi Mud Cake, Brown Sugar Pecan Coffee Cake, and German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.
All of these sweet treats were delicious, and the precise measuring, stirring and timing baking requires, soothed me. But, there were only so many baked goods my family or co-workers could consume, so I had to move on to more savory fare.
I have recently been fascinated by Rachel Ray’s Week in a Day show on Food Network. I loved the idea of devoting a whole day to making food for the rest of the week, so a couple of weeks ago, I organized myself and tried her method. I woke up early on Sunday and made Split Pea Soup with Lemon, Andouille Sausage and Butternut Squash Gumbo, Green Pastitsio, and a big batch of this Country Salad with Barley.
Country Salad with Barley is my own take on a Trader Joe’s salad Les and I both love. I worked on the recipe until the salad tasted like the Trader Joe’s Salad, and I have it on good authority that I “nailed it.”
The original salad has a base of cabbage the grain salad rests on. I chopped the cabbage and mixed it into the salad. I also used barley rather than bulgur because I like the texture of barley better than bulgur, but be sure not to overcook the barley as it becomes gummy. The dill and cumin mix with the balsamic vinegar to create a deliciously unique salad with a nice chew from the barley and a crunch from the cabbage. I make a big batch of this salad so we can have it for lunch during the week, and it keeps really well.
I spent the weekend in Montana with my daughter and Lynn (my late dad's wife), and we had a great visit. I think with time and a lot of cooking I will start to feel less raw, and I'll feel even better when my daughter comes home for Christmas break (she will love this salad)!
Country Salad with Barley
4 to 6 cups of cooked barley (I use this technique for cooking the barley)
6 cups chopped cabbage (from one medium head)
1 cup of chopped cucumber
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 14oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chopped dill
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Stir together the barley, cabbage, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red pepper and garbanzo beans in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, cumin dill and salt. Pour the dressing over barley mixture and stir to combine. Chill the salad for at least one hour to let the flavors combine. Serve.