I take my tomatoes seriously. I will wait from late summer to late spring- what feels like an eternity- for their return to the farmers' markets. I resist buying the tomatoes from the grocery store from some place far away. And when I taste that first one in late June, I am reminded that the wait was worth it. Summer cherry tomatoes, still slightly warm from the sun, are too irresistible to not just pop right into my mouth, completely unaltered. But they can also bring a welcome acidity to so many summer salads, especially to those loaded with herbs.
I originally made this recipe as a dish to carry to a family potluck. I had grains and lentils stored in the fridge that I had cooked a few days prior and a new bounty of the first summer tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs from the local farmers' market. The dish was so delicious, I made another batch when I got home. It is a delicious salad served alongside grilled foods or even with a hard-boiled egg. It may seem daunting to make two grains for a salad, but the texture you get from the chewy barley and nutty, almost crunchy quinoa combination is pretty awesome.
Barley and Quinoa Herb Summer Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes
1/3 cup cooked beluga lentils*
2/3 cup cooked pearl barley**
2/3 cup cooked quinoa***
2 English cucumbers, sliced lengthwise and then thinly sliced cross-wise in half-moon shapes
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled feta (I used goat milk feta which I highly recommend)
Herbed Arugula Dressing
1 cup loosely packed arugula
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine barley, quinoa, lentils, cucumbers, and tomatoes in a large bowl.
Make the herb dressing: Add all dressing ingredients to a mini food processor and blitz until mostly smooth.
Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle with pine nuts and crumbed feta. Stir until mixed. Taste and adjust salt. Enjoy! Serves 4-6.
* To cook beluga lentils: Use the ratio 1 part beluga lentils to 4 cups water. Rinse the lentils under running water and drain. Add lentils and fresh water to pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, checking the texture around 15 minutes. You want a firm but not crunchy lentil. When lentils reach desired doneness, drain lentils, and set aside. 1 cup uncooked lentils yields about 2 cups cooked lentils.
** To cook pearl barley: Use the ratio of 1 part pearl barley to 3 parts water. Bring the water and barley to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook for 30-35 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before removing the lid. 1 cup of uncooked pearl barley yields about 3 cups of cooked pearly barley.
*** To cook quinoa: Use the ratio 1 part quinoa to 1.5 parts water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa, stir, and cover pot. Reduce heat to low, and allow to cook for 25 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes before removing the lid. 1 cup of uncooked quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.