This spring grain salad with fava and fennel is made with toasted pearl barley and is chock full of refreshing seasonal produce and flavor. I just got back from an appointment with an orthopedist to review the results of my MRI. The good news is there was nothing super alarming, no crazy enormous bulging discs or herniations to be found. The bad news is we have nothing to point where we can confidently say that’s the source of your pain. Basically I have the wear and tear of a spine of a 40-year-old and that’s only about ten years off so again nothing alarming. The doctor told me today that I really just need to rest and give it time to heal. I told him I wasn’t so good at resting. And he said well we need to find you some other outlets. That’s where this recipe comes in.
Shucking fava beans is going to be my new outlet for the spring. Have you ever shucked a fava before? It can be quite meditative if you don’t let yourself get caught up in how much time it’s actually adding to your prep time. For me, just focusing on the task in front of me, peeling each pod open, pulling the 3 or 4 beans per pod out, tossing the pod, and starting over again, was really a practice in mindfulness. Next time I see the ortho, I’ll have to fill him in on my new outlet, you know, in case he wants to pass that on to future patients of his. 😉Fava beans are my spring plant-based protein jam. They’re an excellent source of fiber and folate and provide iron, magnesium and potassium. They do take some prep work if you buy them fresh, not only do you have to remove the beans from the pod but you also have to peel back the leathery skin around the beans. An easy hack to do this without worrying about extra pots and ice baths is to freeze the beans for about 30 minutes, remove them and let them defrost for about 10 minutes or so and then peel back the outer layer.Now if you’re not feeling all the shucking and you don’t need another outlet, you can look for shelled fava beans in the freezer section of your grocery store (but not all supermarkets carry them). In fact, fresh fava beans are even pretty short-lived in the supermarkets and farmer’s markets so take advantage of them in your spring cooking while you can!
I love this recipe because it’s perfect piled over arugula, paired with a protein, or just enjoyed as is. The pearl barley adds bulk and makes it satiating, the mint, fennel and lemon adds refreshing notes while the feta adds saltiness and creamy texture and the walnuts provide that satisfying crunch. With well-balanced flavor and texture, I could eat this grain salad alllll spring long.Print
For the salad:
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 lbs fresh fava beans or 1 cup shelled (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 fennel bulb, shaved
- 14 mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup feta cheese
- 1/3 cup walnut halves
For the dressing:
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (approx from 1 lemon)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- On a baking sheet, place barley in preheated oven until lightly toasted, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water and salt.
- Bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until tender and the water is absorbed.
- While the barley is cooking, prepare the dressing by adding shallot, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk together until combined.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked barley, fava beans, fennel, mint, feta and walnuts. Add dressing and toss to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe was retested, reshot and revamped to bring you the most delicious (and most beautiful) dish! The original post was published April 2014.