This recipe comes from Anne, who was a guest of a guest of one of my friend’s at The First Unconfidential Cooks’ Dinner. She loves the salad (and so did everyone!), and also its personal history: It is one of the dishes her mother made when she came to help her out after the birth of her first child. Anne says it always brings back feelings of being taken care of. True comfort food. The only change Anne makes is to serve it on top of the arugula instead of tossing everything together because it works better as leftovers—otherwise, the arugula gets very ugly and slimy. Fortunately, there were leftovers–and they were almost better, the dressing having really infused the barley and the other ingredients.
1 1/2 cups barley
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. fennel seeds
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup olive oil (or less)
3 cups crumbled feta cheese (My mother uses cotija cheese. It’s good both ways.)
1 1/2 cups walnuts (black walnuts if available)
2 large bunches arugala, torn into pieces
Bring broth to a boil and add barley. Simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the barley (if necessary), transfer to a bowl.
Make the dressing by combining the balsamic vinegar, garlic, fennel, and oils. Toss barley with dressing. Let cool, then add the cheese and chopped walnuts.
Just before serving, mix in arugula and extra dressing, if desired.