Outside, it's been looking a lot more like October than mid-July. We've had rain here nearly every day for the past month, and even on the days when it has not rained, swirls of gray clouds have hovered overhead. Those little cartoon lightening bolts you see in daily weather forecasts are beginning to haunt my dreams. However, there are two major positives to all this wet weather: 1) I haven't felt badly about trading relaxed beach days for paint rollers and 2) my herb garden is going positively nuts.
Admittedly, I've neglected our garden more this year than I probably ever have. Most years, I start nearly every summer day outside tending to my herbs, clipping and weeding and watering and making sure all my little potted friends are looking good. This season, I seem to perpetually forget about them, rushing past as I sprint from our front door each morning, promising myself I'll tend to them when we get home from the shop. But by the time we do get home, it is dark and I am tired, and so the cycle begins again the following day. Yet, despite my faulty nurturing, save for one very sad dill plant, the garden is looking kind of amazing. Our rosemary and thyme have transformed into shrubs; our mint has taken on a life all its own, stretching and wrapping itself up our patio; our lemon verbena and basil plants are bright and verdant, releasing sweet fragrances each time I brush past them. And then, of course, there is our parsley, which, according to our neighbor's six-year old daughter "really needs a haircut." This is the same little girl who, in the past several months, has reminded me of the following: 1) why sidewalk chalk is pretty great, 2) the importance of sparkly shoes, and 3) why you are never too old to dance in the rain (we had ourselves a bit of a dance party on my patio during a recent thunderstorm). Needless to say, the child has incredible instincts. Which is how I finally ended up outside this week, kitchen shears in hand, set on a mission to give my parsley plant the best damn haircut any six-year old has ever seen.
Things here in renovation-land are moving pretty fast. We are only one bathroom away from being finished painting, we finally agreed on (we think) our wall decor, and we began to shop for lighting fixtures (which, I have to say, was waaaay more fun than I would have thought). All in all, it's been pretty exciting stuff (more on my adventures with eclectic light bulbs next week).
This parsley and barley salad, which originally appeared in Jerusalem -- one of my favorite cookbooks from the past year (and probably one of the most beautiful cookbooks we own) -- solved a number of minor conundrums for me this week. One: what does one do with so much fresh parsley? Two: what does one make as a fast side dish when company (in the form of family) decides to pop-in and you've been in a dust-covered renovation project all day and haven't been to the market in at least a week? Three: but seriously, about all that parsley...
This salad is everything that a summer side dish should be. There is just enough grain to make it filling without leaving you with a bloated blaaaah feeling (which never pairs well with summer humidity), just enough crunch from the celery stalks to make it satisfying and the addition of a few spoonfuls of the marinated feta adds a serious amount of no-cook flavor to every bite. I'm always a sucker for fresh lemon juice (I add it to practically everything come dinnertime), but here, when squeezed across a generous serving of flat-leaf parsley, the whole dish takes on a light, fresh, airy sort of feel (even when it is rainy and gray, yet again). I hope this simple, flavorful side dish becomes part of your summertime routine. Cheers friends!
Parsley & Barley Salad
Adapted from Jerusalem
-1/4 cup pearl barley
- 3/4 cup feta
- 5 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stems, finely chopped
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 celery stalks (including leaves), roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Throughly rinse and drain the pearl barley. Add the rinsed barley to a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Boil for 30 minutes, drain and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, crumble the feta. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, oregano, corriander seeds, cumin and a pinch of salt. Gently mix and set aside.
Add the parsley, green onions, garlic, celery, lemon juice and remaining olive oil to the cooked barley. Mix together and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top each serving of the barley salad off with a few spoonfuls of the marinated feta.