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
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.