Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lentil, Barley, & Fennel Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

I created this salad for a potluck about a year ago, and hadn't made it again until last week. A good test of my recipe writing skills! I'm happy to say my skills passed with flying colors so here is the recipe for you.

This is a great potluck or make-ahead recipe, as a matter of fact. It's good slightly warm, room temperature, or cold, and the sturdy, chewy barley stands up well to a couple of days in the refrigerator.

The walnut oil is a key ingredient here, I think. The flavor really comes through in the dressing, and you'll lose that if you substitute a different oil. I know walnut oil is expensive, but I think it's worth it. It keeps well in the refrigerator (it can go rancid if you keep it at room temperature) and it really adds a nice touch to a lot of wintertime salads.

Lentil, Barley, and Fennel Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

1/2 C French green lentils
1/2 C pearl barley
1 very large fennel bulb, about 10 oz.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C walnuts, roughly chopped

For the walnut vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp light vinegar (I use Trader Joe's orange muscat champagne vinegar; sherry vinegar would be another good choice)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp walnut oil

Cook the lentils in 2 C water in a saucepan until they are tender but still hold their shape, about 25-30 minutes.

In another saucepan, cook the barley in 2 1/2 C water until tender, about 40-45 minutes.

When the lentils and barley are done, drain thoroughly, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, trim the fennel and chop it into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add fennel, and saute a bit. Then cover, turn heat to low, and braise until fennel is tender but retains some texture, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

In a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients except for the oil. Then whisk in the oil.

Pour the dressing over the warm grains and toss together. Then fold in the fennel and chopped walnuts. Serve now or later.

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