Friday, January 25, 2013

Barley Fruit Salad for Tu B’Shevat


While it’s too early for buds to be appearing here, in Israel the fruit trees are beginning to awaken from their winter slumber. This time of season signifies the arrival of Tu B’Shevat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat), the agricultural holiday marking a new year for trees. I just love this celebration of nature and recognizing the trees’ cycle of life. In Israel, the festival has evolved to include planting new trees, as well.


On this day, it’s traditional to eat foods made from fruit and nuts, especially the seven species of Israel - olives, dates, wheat, barley, pomegranates, grapes and figs. With this in mind, I wanted to create a salad that highlights these traditional species. I started with barley. Barley is a rather quiet grain and doesn’t get a lot of fanfare, other than in mushroom barley soup.  I appreciate barley’s chewy texture and earthy flavor and I thought it would shine in a salad.


Roasted grapes are unbelievably good. While I am not really a grape fan, I’ll happily eat a pan of these. The heat transforms the grapes and a flavor emerges that is much more interesting to me. A simple drizzle of olive oil and quick roast softens the grapes and releases their juices, which mix with the oil and create the dressing for this salad.


Tart, crunchy pomegranate arils and sweet dates and figs add texture and color, while fresh mint and lemon zest bring a bright finish to the salad. This one is bursting with flavor! And it provides a nice balance to the heavy stews we are still eating during our chilly, damp season. We can savor this salad and dream about warm sunshine and flowering trees ... soon enough.

Tu B’Shevat Barley Fruit Salad
Serves 4

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup barley, rinsed
2 cups water
2 cups red grapes, stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped (I used deglet noor dates)
1 cup dried figs, stems removed and quartered
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the barley. Stir to coat with butter and sauté until the grains are toasted and a bit browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the 2 cups of water, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Give the barley a stir, cover, lower the heat and simmer until the barley is soft but still has a bit of a chewy bite, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, uncovered.

While the barley is cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and add the grapes. Roll the grapes around to coat them in the oil. Roast the grapes for about 15 minutes, until they are soft and sweet and release their juices. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a serving bowl, scoop the barley in and gently stir in the lemon zest and salt. Add the pomegranate arils, dates and figs. Scrape the roasted grapes and collected juices/olive oil into the bowl and gently mix together. Scatter the mint leaves over the salad and fold them in.

This salad can be made a few hours ahead. Cover and let sit at room temperature until ready to eat.

30 comments:

  1. What a lovely salad;perfect for Tu Bishvat:)

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  2. Love it! One of our dishes is a wheat berry salad with roasted grapes and caramelized shallots with a fig balsamic dressing, kalamata olives and pomegranate arils. Great minds...

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    1. Great minds indeed! Your salad sounds incredible - love the caramelized shallots and fig balsamic dressing. I look forward to hearing how the class goes (and recipes!). I already know it will be delicious. Have fun!

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  3. I LOVE barley! It really doesn't get enough credit--I usually only see it in recipes as a substitute for farro or, of course, in a barley soup. I made a barley salad last spring with dried cherries and pecans, and I've been craving it lately. I think I'll make this instead! You had me at roasted grapes...they're so good.

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    1. Another barley lover - makes me happy! Your barley salad with cherries and pecans sounds delicious. Hooray for barley salads! I hope you enjoy this one. I still have some grapes on hand, so I'm going to roast them for my oatmeal - such a treat. Have a marvelous weekend!

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  4. This is so interesting. I have never really roasted grapes but I have heard about it. Sounds incredible!

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    1. Thank you, Chinmayie! Perhaps you could try roasting some of your Bangalore grapes and see what flavor emerges (I'm still thinking about your ginger grape jam!). Have a wonderful weekend!

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  5. Barley (and farro) lover, delicious! Great inspiration for celebrating Tu Bishvat!

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    1. Thank you, Orly! Mmm, farro is another marvelous grain. I hope you enjoyed a delicious Tu B'Shevat!

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  6. This sounds amazing! I've got some barley languishing in my cabinet and dates and grapes in the fridge. Sounds like a perfect addition to next week's lunch!

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    1. Thank you, Lauren! Happy to share a lunch idea with you and I hope you enjoy it. btw, our Hitchcock collection just arrived so we'll be watching soon with a dinner inspired by your post. :)

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  7. This salad is a knock out! I really love everything about it, but especially the way you used it to pay homage to Tu B'Shevat. I love the idea of having a holiday to mark the beginning of a new tree year. Pinned this salad as it incorporates so many things I like.

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    1. Thank you so much, Susan! I'm delighted you like it. There are four new years in Judaism, and I agree it's very special that one honors the trees. Hope you enjoy the salad!

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  8. this looks so amazing.. love the combination of fruits!
    http://great-secret-of-life.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Veena! It's always wonderful to indulge in fruit, but especially during the winter months. It provides some sunshine on a gray, drizzly day such as today! I appreciate you stopping by.

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  9. This looks very delicious. Well definitely have to try it some time.

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    1. Thank you, Cassie! I hope you enjoy this combination of fruit and barley. I'm happy you stopped by!

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  10. Oh my! Your Barley Fruit Salad looks amazing. I love that you used sweet date in it. The flavor must be wonderful.

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    1. Thank you, Amy! Dates do add some wonderful sweetness. I appreciate all the varieties there are, too. One year, we did a date-tasting and that's how I learned I love deglet noor dates. They're terrific to bake with, as well.

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  11. My son just got a book in the mail from PJ Library about trees and Tu B'Shevat. Very cool! This is a beautiful salad with such interesting flavors!

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    1. Thank you, Alyssa! I hope you and your son enjoyed some snuggly reading together during these drizzly days.

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  12. Not only do I love your recipes and writing, I feel like every post is a little history lesson. Love it!

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    1. Thank you so much, Erina, your kind comment really means a lot to me. xx

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  13. What an amazing way to elevate grapes. It's always surprising how throwing some oven heat at a lovely ingredient turns it into something even better.

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    1. So true, Mikaela! Now I'm looking for more ways to use roasted grapes (including in my morning oatmeal). I hope all is well with you!

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    1. Thank you, Alicia! I'm happy you stopped by. :)

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  15. A beautiful salad Hannah, I love barley, I think is my Scottish roots!, I just find it so comforting & satisfying whether in soup or salads. And roasted grapes, what a great addition :)

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    1. Thank you, Mairi! Isn't barley marvelous? I love baking with the flour, too. Indeed a comforting grain! And I will continue to roast grapes - just saw a roasted grape and mascarpone pie...

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