Friday, July 2, 2010

Barley Salad with Feta, Cucumber, Chickpeas, Red Bell Pepper and Basil

What I like best about being in Europe is that distances make it possible to travel to visit friends and relatives at affordable cost and time while seing beautiful landscapes. My younger brother currently lives in Strasbourg, a medium-size French city, home of the European Parliament, located on the Eastern part of France, at the border with Germany. The French high-speed train (TGV) takes you there in 2h20 from Paris (as opposed to close to 5 hours by car), which made it a definite stop during our European vacations this Summer. It was also the perfect opportunity to visit my dear friend J. who lives with her family in Offenburg, a small town in Germany that is only 30 mn away from Strasbourg. I had been to Strasbourg a few times before but only as a tourist. Being here at my brother's, discovering their local playground and commerçants makes it even more enjoyable.
Alsace, the region where Strasbourg is located, is famous for a few culinary spécialités such as Choucroute, Kouglof, Munster cheese, good beers, and excellent wines like Gewurtzraminer and Riesling. All of which I enjoy, preferably on a Winter day. Let's face it, as my brother was telling me the other day, the culinary répertoire of Alsace is worth le détour unless it's boiling hot outside or/and you are on a diet! Portions served in restaurants are American-like, and even local have a hard time finishing their plate (and no doggy-bag option here). Only my husband would have been crazy willing to eat a choucroute on a hot day like today in Strasbourg. Because he is enjoying his own American-size portions on the other side of the Atlantic, we are cooking a lot of grandes salades composées. It's in the upper 90s today and we don't feel like eating anything "heavy" (but I won't say no to a glass of Riesling!!).
I realize that it is quite a challenge to feed children a salade composée when they are used to eating a three-course meal with a serving of fish/meat with vegetables/grains. Of course it depends on what we compose the salade of. The most famous French salade composée is the ubiquitous Salade Niçoise, which I have adapted here for my family. Here, we generally compose with what's available in the fridge/cupboards while trying to balance vegetables and grains and taking into account what everybody already had for lunch to avoid redundancy. Most of the time the end-result is creative (to say the least) but nonetheless delicious.
I find out that our children eat the salade composée with limited reluctancy when we agree to let them pick out one thing (or two) they don't like (for real or just because their cousins don't like it). It is also my experience that the thinner the ingredients are cut, the more likely they will be eaten. I don't offer a mush of shredded pepper-carrots-radish pour autant (not appetizing at all!!) but I do cut the bell pepper and onions very very thin! And, just for the fun and the appetizing colors of salades composées, I always try to have 3 or more colors in the salad! It's Summer after all! Bon Appétit!

- Barley  (about 1/2 cup dry barley)
- Feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small dices
- Fresh cucumber, diced
- Cooked chickpeas
- a small red bell pepper, thinly cut
- Fresh basil
  • Cook Barley according to instructions and cool in the fridge
  • Prepare cucumber and red bell pepper
  • Mix in chickpeas, cucumber and bell pepper into barley.
  • Just before serving stir in Feta cheese and chopped basil
  • Serve with a Sauce vinaigrette

My Personal Comments
  • If you have extra barley, keep it for another dish (salad or soup)
  • You could add red onions for extra flavor

1 comment: