15 May 2008

Basic Barley Salad & Olive Oil Lecture

Before I begin, I have something to say about extra virgin olive oil. It doesn't matter if it's from Spain or Italy or Greece, but it has to be a first cold press. It has to say first cold press or first cold extraction on the bottle. It has to. Yes, it may be more expensive, but there is a serious difference in flavour. I could tell the difference blindfolded. No, rly. Srsly. There's a faint bitterness to non-first cold presses and the little fruity or peppery nuances are lost.
Now, buy the cheap extra virgin olive oil of you're going to cook with it -- people say not to heat it ever, but a cheap cooked extra virgin olive oil lends more flavour to a dish than a cheap regular old olive oil and the bitterness isn't noticeable once it's cooked.
But if you are going to pour an olive oil over something and not cook it, say, when you're doing a nice drizzle over a risotto or a soup or bread or salad, it has to be a first cold press! Also, keep away from light and heat.

I use this brand called San Leandro that I discovered at Morrison's. A 50 cl/16.9 fl. oz bottle costs less than £4 and it really is delicious.
I had a friend living in Italy with his aunt and uncle who made their own olive oil and posted me a litre and it was AMAZING, but my friend moved to Korea (hi, Eddie!), so I no longer have access to it's amazing peppery deliciousness. When Mark and I visited two of our friends in Spain (Andalusia -- Sevilla to be exact and remind me to post a delicious garbanzo tapa recipe that I ate along the way), even the olive oil in plastic bottles there was amazing. (Coincidentally, or not, the aforementioned San Leandro is Andalusian, too.)

And now on to the recipe.

I've had a serious thing for barley ever since I was a little girl. We sang a song in school about eating oats and barley with your uncle Charlie. My uncle Chuck heard about the song and, amused, showed up with a bag of barley the next time he came to visit.
I love the texture of barley -- it's so chewy. It does take absolutely ages to cook, but I think it's worth it. Plus, barley is a fun word to say. Barley. Barley. Barley!
This is my barley answer to the pasta salad.

Basic Barley Salad

Cook, drain, and rinse barley (a cup or so per serving), mix with finely chopped green olives, celery, and onion (a tbsp or so each per serving). Add lemon juice, cider vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil (I use equal parts, say a tbsp or so each per serving, but some people prefer 1 part each of lemon juice and cider vinegar to 2 parts olive oil). Salt & pepper to taste. Give it all a big stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight. I know you want to eat it right away, but it tastes so much better after you let all the bits and pieces mingle, trust me. Toss and serve. Eat.

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