I found a half-used bag of barley buried very deep in the cabinet and knew I had to use my fresh fennel right away (it was a week old) so I thought, fennel and barley salad. Usually I like to keep my ingredients list short, but since I was only using stuff I had on hand…the list got quite lengthy. Obviously, use what you have and feel free to substitute barley with something you might like better. I think Orzo would be awesome, or even cous cous. Things got really crazy when I added some Rosé to the pan with fennel and garlic, but seriously that was crazy and any of the flavor it might have added burned off, so I won’t include that step. I’m extremely happy with the way this turned out and it was really fun to try and mix flavors. I didn’t want to add just plain walnuts because the barley already has a distinctly nutty flavor, so I flash-candied them in a pan with some maple syrup.
Fennel and Barley Salad (with goat cheese and candied walnuts)
You will need:
1 ½ cups dry barley (that’s what I had left, but stick with a cup and use less fennel)
1 fennel bulb
1-3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. goat cheese
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cloves garlic
½ cup walnuts
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1 Tbs. finely chopped scallions
Salt and pepper
1. Rinse the barley a few times and soak for about ten minutes. In a large saucepan, combine the barley with 3 ¾ cup water (that’s my guess). Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or just when all the water has been absorbed. Let it rest off the flame and covered, then remove the cover and let it rest a while longer.
2. Cut off the leafy top of the fennel and any stem at the bottom. If you have a mandoline, use it. If not, just cut the bulb in half and slice as thinly as you can (like an onion). Also, chop the garlic into very small slices.
3. In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, toast the walnuts. Add the maple syrup and stir until you see a bit of smoke. Remove immediately and run the pan under cold water to remove the caramelized sugar, otherwise you will sorry. Now that your pan is clean, you can use it again.
4. Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the garlic for a minute or two, then add the fennel plus a pinch of salt and sauté until barely golden brown (about 5 minutes).
5. In a large bowl add the barley, fennel/garlic mixture, walnuts, goat cheese, scallions and salt and pepper. Toss to combine and add shaved lemon zest. Voila!