There are endless possibilities for mixing and matching ingredients with whole grains to create dynamite salads and pilafs.
Barley is often overlooked and that's a shame. It's full of nutrition and has the most agreeable chewy texture that I love to bite into. As if that weren't enough of a recommendation, it is ridiculously inexpensive purchased in the bulk section.
Our local Whole Foods now carries two types of barley in bulk. One is the traditional pearled barley that you see here. The second is called "hulled" barley, which actually is more of a whole grain than the pearled variety.
"Hulled" barley, with a longer, narrower shape, has just the outermost and toughest hull removed. The bran, full of fiber and vitamins, is left intact. Pearled barley, by contrast, is processed to remove all of the hull and the bran, leaving it with that bright, pearly white finish.
"Hulled" barley takes a bit longer to cook and has a chewier texture. Since I already had some pearled barley in the pantry, that's what I chose to use for this dish.
To make the salad, I cooked 3/4-cup dried barley in 1 1/2 cups lightly salted water until tender. I spread the cooked barley on a baking sheet to cool. Meanwhile, chop one long onion scape from the garden into small pieces and toss it in a mixing bowl with about 1/4 cup marinated black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped, a big handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, a couple of ounces Feta cheese, crumbled, and a couple teaspoons coarsely chopped marjoram leaves fresh from the garden.
Marjoram is a close cousin of oregano but the leaves are smaller and sweeter. It's used quite a bit in making sausages and also in some stews and pasta sauces. I like its pungent, assertive flavor. But if you can't find it, you could easily substitute oregano or even torn basil leaves for a very different twist.
To season the salad, I made a quick vinaigrette from 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon red wine vinegar and a couple tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Toss the vinaigrette into the salad and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Note: if you don't happen to have onion or garlic scapes growing in your garden, feel free to substitute chopped scallions.