Barley Salad - Modernist Cuisine

Barley Salad

Recipe • February 7, 2013

I love pressure-cooking grains. Many of them, especially barley, don’t need to be soaked. That, combined with the short cooking time of a pressure cooker, means it’s a big time saver. The barley in this recipe takes only 20 minutes to cook. It works perfectly and has a wonderful texture.

On the stove top, the water will evaporate as you cook the grains, so you must continually add water, which can result in grains that are really mushy. In a pressure cooker, however, you use only a small amount of water (just enough water to cook with) and none of it escapes, so the grains don’t lump up too much. It’s so easy!

This is a great recipe, but my favorite use of pressure-cooked barley is in our Barley with Wild Mushrooms and Red Wine recipe from Modernist Cuisine at Home, which is a variation found in the Risotto and Paella chapter.

Anjana Shanker, Development Chef


Barley Salad


Our barley salad includes pressure-cooked grains, apples, celery, and spinach pesto.

Barley Salad, Step 2


The barley we call for here includes the intact bran, but pearl barley is fine as a substitute.

Barley Salad, Step 3


You do not need very much water when cooking grains in a pressure cooker.

Barley Salad, step 4


Strain the barley and let it cool before mixing in the pesto, apple, and celery.Pesto, Step 4

To drain the spinach and parsley, wrap them in cheesecloth and squeeze to remove excess moisture.

Spinach Pesto, final


This pesto, which uses spinach, parsley, almonds, almond oil, and Gouda, is a little lighter in color than what you may be used to.

Additional Tips & Substitutions

For the Barley Salad
  • While there is no need to soak the grains before cooking them, you do still need to rinse them until the water runs clear.
  • Instead of the hulled barley with intact bran, you can substitute pearl barley. It will take even less time to cook.
  • For more on cooking times for grains, click here.
  • To make the barley ahead of time, after straining it in step 4, transfer the barley to a baking sheet, and refrigerate it uncovered until completely cool, about 1 hour. Then toss the barley with a bit of oil to keep the grains from sticking together, and then store it, covered, in the refrigerator.
  • This salad keeps for 3 days when refrigerated.
For the Spinach Pesto
  • This recipe is a variation of our Pistachio Pesto. In Modernist Cuisine at Home we include other variations such as Roasted Red Pepper Pesto; Cilantro Pesto; Green Onion and Sorrel Pesto; Chervil, Thyme, and Scallion Pesto; and Sauce Verte.
  • When blanching the greens in step 2, plunge them into ice water immediately after taking them out of the pot. They should be barely cooked through.
  • One advantage of blanching vegetables is that it helps them to retain their color and texture. This is often called “fixing the color” of vegetables. For more on the science behind this, see page 2·66 of Modernist Cuisine.
  • Blanched foods will continue to cook after removing them from the heat source.
  • Contrary to popular belief, shocking food in a bath of ice water doesn’t actually stop the food from cooking. Depending on the size of your food, it can still take a while before the core temperature of the food drops below the cooking temperature. For more on the physics of this process, see page 2·254 of Modernist Cuisine.
  • Use a cheesecloth to remove any excess moisture from the blanched spinach and parsley.
  • When the oils and lemon juice are fully incorporated, the pesto will become paste-like. Pesto actually means “paste” in Italian.
  • For a crunchier pesto, pulse the mixture in your food processor until a coarse texture is achieved.
  • Rather than give a regular scaling for the xanthan gum, weigh your entire batch of pesto, and then add 0.2% of the total weight.
  • Make sure to whisk the xanthan gum into the pesto until it is fully incorporated.
  • The xanthan gum is optional. If you are not using xanthan gum, refrigerate the pesto for 1 hour before adding it to the barley salad.
  • This recipe makes 350 g of pesto, but you will only need 175 g for the salad. Freeze the leftover pesto (it will keep up to 3 months when frozen) or scale down the recipe . For more on scaling recipes, click here.
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