Brown Rice and Barley Salad with Cabbage and Cranberries
Brown Rice and Barley Salad with Cabbage and Cranberries

Doesn't this just scream healthy to you?! All those complex grains and bright colored cabbage! No, you're not being punished or anything--it's truly delicious too and a gorgeous way to get more whole grains and fiber into your diet. It's also a great dish to bring to a pot-luck or BBQ (if the weather ever actually warms up enough for us to start eating out of doors once again!). If you're looking to add some color into your life, this is the dish for you!

Why is it that it's so easy for me to wax eloquently on the merits of cookies, cakes, puddings, brownies and other yummy treats, but when it comes to healthy foods like high-protein, high-fiber barley and brown rice, my culinary compliments become as bland as well, rice or barley. But that's not fair to either grain, because I love them both in all their tender, chewy nubbiness, yet I have to admit they're not the most interesting foods to talk about--sort of like bringing out the travel slides at a party. 

Red cabbage though--how can you not stand in awe of it, in all it's purple-y intricately spiralized wonder? Here it adds just the perfect counterbalance of crunch and color. Perfect cocktail party chatter!

Rounding things out are the pecans and dried cranberries, with their earthiness and tartness, adding even more texture and color to this already-very-textured salad.

So, as my daughter said when I was struggling with how to get rice and barley to sound exciting and enticing, "just tell them to make it". I think I'll let that be the last word.

Brown Rice and Barley Salad with Cabbage and Cranberries

Makes 8-10 servings

Prep Time: About 1 hour (only about 10 minutes of it is active time)


For the Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely

  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed

  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed

  • 4 cups water

  • A pinch of salt

  • 1/2 red cabbage, shredded

  • 1 cup dried cranberries

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (you could also use walnuts)

For the Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 shallots, chopped finely

  • A big pinch of fresh thyme leaves, chopped

The Recipe

1.  To make the salad:  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and let cook for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Stir in the rice and barley. Add the water and salt and turn the heat up high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and let simmer for 30-40 minutes until all of the water has evaporated and the grains are tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 20 minutes (you can cheat and put the pot in the fridge to speed things up if you're busy).

2.  Once the mixture is cool, scrape it out into a large bowl and add the cabbage, cranberries, parsley and toasted pecans.

3.  To make the dressing:  Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Toss well and serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold. Salad can be made one day ahead and kept covered and chilled. 

Note:  Recipe adapted from Very Fond of Food by Sophie Dahl. I tinkered around a lot with the proportions and ingredients too. Left out the chopped celery and added more cranberries and pecans. Also, I doubled the amount of dressing because one serving seemed to not be enough to properly coat the salad.

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