It was so hot this summer that I didn’t want to cook at all. Our apartment offers no shade from the sun and we don’t have air conditioning. The air was often hot and heavy, without a hint of a breeze. So adding to the heat with cooking – no thanks.
One system I came up with to minimize cooking during the day was to soak and then cook a big batch of legume and grain in the evening. While soaking grains and legumes helps the nutrients be more bio-available, the major advantage of soaking in the summer is that it then takes less cooking time. Kept in the fridge, I could take some out through the week as a base for various dishes, from salads to sautes (and theoretically soup, but that heat thing) and mix with a variety of vegetables.
Right now, I’m enjoying barley. It has just the right bite, with some flavour but not too strong. It has long been used in Slovakia, although potatoes largely replaced barley as a staple during the 19th century. Still, barley is used in soups (like the Lendak soup in my book, Slovak Soups and Stews) and for making blood pudding during pig butchering. Barley does contain gluten however; if you can’t eat gluten Job’s tears look like a good substitute.
And, frankly, barley is cheap in this part of the world. As much as I enjoy quinoa, wild rice, and other exotic grains, a budget-friendly option like barley is welcome when feeding a large family.
Among legumes, I think chickpeas/garbonzo beans are my favourite. Mildly flavoured, more bite than lentils but less than other beans. Oh, although I did just discover beluga lentils, which are very good and hold their shape well.
Most legumes and grains here come in 500g (17.6 oz) packages (someday I will have room to buy in bulk), so I put one package to soak in the morning and cook it up in the evening; when it has cooled down, I put it in the fridge and voila – almost instant food through the week.
Of all the legume/grain mixes I made, this meal version of Greek salad was my favourite. Of course, I’m a bit of a Greek salad fan – as a teenager, Greek salad was one of my meal requests every year, that and my mom’s blueberry cheesecake.
I hope summer is not too far gone for you to enjoy this salad!
Chickpea Barley Greek Salad
Chickpeas and barley make this Greek salad a filling and delicious way to beat the heat with minimal cooking.
- 1 1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked about 125g dry
- 1 1/2 cup pearl barley, cooked about 125g dry
- 3-4 tomatoes
- small onion
- 1 pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 150 grams (5 oz) feta cheese
- brined olives (optional)
Soak dry chickpeas and barley 8-12 hours before cooking. Bring water to a boil and add chickpeas (it's supposed to be faster than bringing the water to a boil with the chickpeas together); simmer until tender, about one hour.
Drain the chickpeas into a colander, pouring the water into another pot. Pour soaked barley into the already hot water (saving energy, time, and water - whoot!). Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Rinse with cold water, if desired to speed up the cooling process. When at room temperature, refrigerate until needed.
Half tomatoes and squeeze out water. Chop tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, and onion and put in a large salad bowl. Add chickpeas and barley and a handful of olives, if using.
Whisk together olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, basil, oregano, and salt, and pour over. Who am I kidding - I just throw them on top of the salad and mix them in.
Crumble feta and add to salad. Ideally, the salad can rest for an hour or so in the fridge for the flavours to meld. Enoy!