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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Asparagus and Zesty Lemon Grain Salad

I created this salad as a challenge to myself to go beyond simple grilled asparagus. Every time I buy the green stems I feel like I cook then in the same manner...which although is delicious has gotten a little boring for me. I didn't want to waste their integrity and puree them into a soup or lose them in a pasta. Asparagus represents the Spring season...refreshing, breezy and bright...and that's exactly what you'll get from this salad!

We've had this as dinner, I've taken it to potlucks and it's been my go-to lunch whenever I've had it in the fridge. I LOVE IT. I love the way I feel when I look at it with the bright green from the asparagus and the red from the tomato, I love all the textures going on in here from the crisp of the asparagus to the crunch of the walnut and the chewiness of the barley. Don't even get me started on the explosion of're going to have to find out for yourself on that note, but I will tell you that stiring the lemon zest into the hot cooked barley will release the natural oils in the zest and let the barley absorb all the flavor...yum!

Serves 3-5

-2 cups water
-1 cup rinsed barley
-1/2 tablespoon salt
-1 teaspoon oil
-1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

-1 bunch fresh asparagus
-2 cups chopped tomatoes
-1 cup chopped walnuts
-1 cup chopped parsley
-3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 squeezed lemons)
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
-salt to taste

-1 cup valbreso feta cheese
-1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
-1 large chopped avocado

To make
-Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a pot and drop in rinsed and drained barley, salt and oil. Reduce your heat to medium low then cover the pot and cook about 20-25 minutes or until the water is absorbed and your barley is soft and fluffy. Remove from the heat, uncover and add lemon zest and stir. Leave your barley to cool completely before adding other ingredients.
-While your barley is cooking, heat another pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Lightly salt your water and rinse asparagus. Gently snap off the bottom of your asparagus and drop into the boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes then immediately remove and drop asparagus into a bowl filled with ICE and water. This is called an ice bath and is done to stop the cooking process and shock the asparagus into retaining its vibrant green color. Leave the asparagus until it has cooled and then remove from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Roughly chop at a diagonal angle into 1 inch pieces.
- When your barley has cooled, place it into a bowl and  layer chopped tomatoes, asparagus, walnuts and parsley. You can now add optional toppings. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle black pepper on top. Drizzle the olive oil around the edges of the bowl.
*If you are making this ahead of time cover and place in your refrigerator until ready to use.
-Mix when ready to serve and taste to adjust lemon and salt content. Place into a platter and serve.

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Looking for more salad inspiration? Try some of my favorites here! I especially enjoy
Mexican Bean and Corn Salad
Pomegranate + Green Bean Lentil Salad

Middle Eastern Tabbouleh 
Arugula and Roasted Beet Salad

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