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Barley, Pumpkin, and Swiss Chard Salad

January 19, 2010

Barley, Pumpkin, and Swiss Chard Salad

I’m not quite sure that it’s right to call this a salad. Maybe it’s a pilaf? It’s warm, and full of vegetables and nuts and grains. It’s a hodgepodge of flavors and textures. It’s finished off with a quick drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar. And it’s really good. I love it when something so full of healthiness is also full of yum.

I like to say that I’m not the type to make New Years resolutions, but in all honesty, I usually do find myself trying to eat better once a new year rolls around. In fact, I tend to make this particular resolution multiple times a year. I aim for the whole grains and leafy greens, but after a few weeks, the butter and heavy cream start sneaking back in. One thing I’m trying this time around is a checklist. Because yes, I am a total dork and I like lists, and paperwork. I created a printable list of dietary goals for the week, including things like daily servings of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit (always the tricky one for me), and limited amounts of red meat and (gulp, even trickier) alcohol. Somehow, once I hit the age of 30 that whole taking-care-of-myself thing started to seem more important.

And with dinners like this, it might not be so hard.

Roasted Pumpkin

I tried a new method of roasting winter squash with this pumpkin. Usually I take a sharp knife to the uncooked specimen and hack it apart to roast it in halves or pieces. But The Joy of Cooking told me I could roast this little pumpkin whole, so I figured I’d give it a try. And it is way, way easier, so I feel fairly certain this will be my go to method in the future. I used about half this pumpkin for the barley salad, and am saving half for a pumpkin and potato dinner tonight.

To roast a whole squash, set the oven to 375F. Cut a few small gashes in the squash’s shell, so it doesn’t explode in the oven, and place it on a baking sheet, to catch any dripping juices. Bake the squash for about an hour or an hour and a half, depending on size. This pumpkin took about an hour, and might have been ok with a little less time. Once the pumpkin is soft, remove it from the oven and let it cool a little. Then simply slice, peel, and scrape out the seeds.

Swiss Chard

I used about half a large bunch of swiss chard. I had originally intended to use spinach, but the brilliant color of this stuff called out to me, and I could not resist. It did end up turning the barley a bit pink, especially in the leftovers. And I think it was more bitter than spinach, even with most of the ribs and stems removed. But that actually lent some good flavor contrast to the overall dish, so I wouldn’t knock it.

Barley, Pumpkin, and Swiss Chard Salad

  • 1 small pumpkin or other winter squash
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • about 2 cups chopped swiss chard, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • about 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375F. Pierce the squash with a sharp knife once or twice, place on a baking sheet, and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size. You don’t want the squash to look to collapsed, or the flesh inside will be more puree than pieces. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for about two minutes, or until they are just beginning to soften. Stir in the barley, oregano, thyme, and paprika, then add a cup of water (or vegetable broth). Stir well and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the barley simmer for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the pumpkin into bite-sized cubes and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a minute or two, until it’s soft and just beginning to yellow. Add the pumpkin and stir well. Let the pumpkin cook undisturbed for another two minutes or so, then stir and flip the pumpkin to cook the other side of each piece. No need to be precise here. The pumpkin will start to fall apart a little, but I tried to cook it without stirring as much as possible to keep the pieces solid. After a few minutes, stir in the swiss chard. Cook for another five minutes or so, or until the chard is wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the barley is done cooking, stir together the barley and chard mixtures in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pecans and parsley, and drizzle with red wine vinegar, and perhaps a little more oil if it seems dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve, perhaps sprinkled with a little bit of Parmesan.

Barley, Pumpkin, and Swiss Chard Salad

This made enough for me to have dinner and two lunches, and the flavors were even better after a day or two, as these things usually are. If last winter was the year of the soup, I suspect this will be the year of the grain-based salads. I’m already looking forward to it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Maggie permalink
    January 19, 2010 10:26 pm

    Wow this looks really good & not too difficult, I think I’ll give it a try, but with spinach, chard seems kind of hard for me to find for some reason, but I do remember the taste of it, yummy. I made some homemade veggie broth which is okay, but if you have any suggestions for that I’d love to hear them!! :)

  2. Kayla permalink
    January 23, 2010 12:39 pm

    Holy crap, this looks amazing. Consider it bookmarked.

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