If you are looking for a Mediterranean inspired salad recipe, this Pearl Barley Salad with Kale and Feta is the one you need. This salad can play double duty, either as a side dish or even a main dish for a lighter meal.
While most people don't think of a vegetarian salad like this as hearty enough for a meal, let me assure you, the barley and kale both add bulk to an otherwise simple salad.
- Kale- I used curly kale as it the most accessible ay my local grocery stores. If you are interested in trying other types of kale, I am providing information below on other varieties to try.
- Tomatoes- what is a Mediterranean dish with them?
- Kalamata olives- If you prefer something lighter, you can always use black olives.
- Artichoke hearts- artichokes are one of my favorite foods and I love using them in salads.
- Pearl Barley- If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know I love using whole grains in all my dishes. Be sure to cook this ahead of time as it will need to cool.
- Capers- I am going to add this as optional, while I love them, I understand not everyone does.
- Red onions- These with the cucumbers give a crunch to the salad, but also a big punch of flavor.
- Cucumbers- I love the crunch of cucumbers in this salad.
- Olive oil- For the lemon dressing.
- Feta- My favorite cheese in Mediterranean dishes.
- Champagne vinegar- also for the vinaigrette.
- Dijon mustard- for an emulsifier in the dressing.
- Lemon juice- this has got to be fresh squeezed.
- Minced garlic
- Spices- Salt, black pepper, and oregano is all this salad needs.
How to make
Prep the kale
- There is nothing worse than biting into a large, tough bite of kale. Massaging is my favorite way to make it so much better. If you have never done this before, don't worry, I will walk you through the simple process.
- Start by cutting out the stem on the kale. This is really hard to work with in salads, so I usually opt to just cut it out. Next, roll the kale leaf (or leaves) into a cigar shape. Thinly slice (julienne) the leaves for the salad.
- Drizzle the leaves with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt.
PRO TIP: I love using the salt as an abrasive to break down the kale and make it so much softer and more pliable.
- Massage the kale for about a minute or 2 until it is softer. Set this aside.
Prep the remaining ingredients
Once the kale is done, the hardest part is over. Continue cutting up the remaining ingredients into smaller pieces.
If you are using a block of feta, break it up into smaller pieces as well.
Make the salad
Now is the time to put it all together. Add all your ingredients to your serving dish. You can arrange it how you want, or simply throw everything into a bowl.
When the salad is done, mix together your vinaigrette. I like to whisk it in a small bowl or put it into a mason jar covered and give it a good shake.
Drizzle this over your salad and serve immediately. You can mix it in if you feel like it needs it. I find the dressing seeps in anyway, so I don't bother mixing it in.
How to cook pearl barley
I will show you how to cook barley in a rice cooker, as this is the method I use most often. Add ½ cup of barley and 1 cup of water or broth to the rice cooker. If you are using water, add in ¾ teaspoon of salt.
Set the time to cook and leave it. When the time is up, check for doneness. My cheap little rice cooker cooks it perfectly, but depending on your model, you may need to set it to cook again.
When it is done, fluff with a fork. Let it cool before adding it to the salad.
Types of kale to use in salad
- Curly Kale: This is the most common type, known for its tight, curly leaves. It has a robust flavor and holds up well in salads.
- Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale: Characterized by its dark green, long, narrow leaves, Lacinato kale has a slightly sweeter taste and a more tender texture. It's often preferred in raw salads.
- Red Russian Kale: With its purple stems and frilly leaves, Red Russian kale adds vibrant color to salads. It has a milder taste compared to curly kale.
- Baby Kale: Young kale leaves, also known as baby kale, are tender and mild. They work well in salads and are often more palatable for those new to kale.
If you have plans to use this salad for meal prep, which I highly recommend, let me share a few recommendations with you.
Be sure to add the dressing right before serving. We want the kale to be soft, but we don't want the ingredients to be mushy! Because of this, it is important to let only dress the salad before serving.
If you love salad and are looking for other recipes, let me share a few of my favorites:
Pearl Barley Salad With Kale and Feta
- 6 cups thinly sliced kale
- 1 cup tomatoes
- 2 cups cucumbers
- 1 cup cooked and cooled barley
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 cup sliced artichoke hearts
- ½ cup kalamata olives chopped
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- ¼ cup capers optional
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt more as needed
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- Cut stems from the kale, roll into a cigar, and thinly slice.
- Drizzle the kale with a touch of olive oil, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt. Massage the kale until it is tender.
- Combine all the ingredients in your serving bowl.
- Mix the dressing and pour it over the salad. Serve immediately.