The light, nutty flavor of barley blends beautifully with the earthiness of mushrooms, accented by hazelnuts and tart-sweet dried cranberries or cherries. This dish would be ideal alongside roasted pork or chicken, or at lunchtime with cheese and bread. The salad will be at its best if made at least a few hours in advance, allowing the flavors to meld and develop before serving. If you’re in a big hurry, you may skip soaking the barley and simply cook it in boiling water for about 20 minutes, but the texture is better if soaked before cooking.
|1 pound wild mushrooms, brushed clean, trimmed, and coarsely chopped, or 2 ounces dried wild mushrooms|
1 cup barley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries or cherries
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
If using dried mushrooms, put them in a small heatproof bowl and pour about 1 1/2 cups boiling water over them. Set aside until tender and cool, about 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Finely chop the mushrooms and set aside.
Soak the barley in a large bowl of cold water (enough to generously cover the grain) for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally. When ready to cook the barley, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Drain the barley and add it to the boiling water. Cook over medium-high heat until the barley is just tender but still has a slight bite, 15 to 20 minutes.
While the barley is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender and aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid they give off has evaporated, about 5 minutes. (If using reconstituted dried mushrooms, simply cook them until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.)
Take the skillet from the heat and stir in the parsley and thyme. When the barley is cooked, drain it well and add it to the skillet with the hazelnuts and dried cranberries or cherries, stirring to evenly mix. (If using dried mushrooms, stir in about 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid as well.) Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings