Over the years, I’ve learned that the first three rules of cooking are ingredients, ingredients, ingredients. If I start with good ingredients and don’t burn anything, chances are the outcome will be fairly tasty.
I found this recipe for Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad on Smitten Kitchen’s blog. The recipe originally appeared in Gourmet, and I can see why. The long list of ingredients was a bit intimidating, but they combine to create an explosion of color, texture, and taste.
This would be a great salad to make at the end of summer with veggies fresh from the garden, but I couldn’t wait another four months to test it out. I could see this being a smash hit at a picnic or potluck.
Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad
Makes 4 (main course) or 8 (side dish) servings
1 1/2 lb eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 lb zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
1 1/4 cups pearl barley (8 oz)
1 (14-oz) can reduced-sodium vegetable broth (1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved (I only had green olives in the house, and they tasted fine)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion 1/2 cup chopped scallion
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Cook barley: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook the cumin, coriander, and paprika, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Remove cover and allow to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Roast eggplant and zucchini: Toss eggplant and zucchini in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand for 20 minutes to an hour. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Toss eggplant and zucchini with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Remove from the pans from the oven and let the vegetables cool.
Make dressing and assemble salad: Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add barley, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.