March 31, 2015

Asparagus Barley Salad with Pine Nuts & Parmesan

Asparagus & Barley Salad

This salad is a mash up of the many grain and asparagus salads I’ve seen floating around the web lately. With asparagus season truly getting underway, and a big bag of barley in our pantry, I knew this just had to be made. The general idea is that delicious fresh cooked asparagus is tossed with hot barley, a sharp lemony vinaigrette, and topped with shavings of salty Parmesan. The concept is simple, and so is the recipe, and the result is nothing short of delicious.

The real treat about this salad is the balance of flavors and textures. The nuts give it crunch, the vegetables a soft sweetness, and Parmesan adds the perfect salty bite. The barley proves to be a satisfying backdrop for holding the vinaigrette. But, honestly, if you wanted to substitute pearl couscous, quinoa, orzo, or a mix of grains they would work well, too.

Now that I’ve made this a couple of times I can totally see adding more vegetables to it depending what is in season. Shaved raddish, for example, sweet peas, corn, or even slow-roasted tomatoes would taste amazing. I’ll save that adaptation for later this spring, so stay tuned!

Asparagus Barley Salad with Pine Nuts & Parmesan

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serving Size: 4 to 6

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  • 1 cup barley
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • Vinaigrette:
  • Zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (about 1 tablespoon juice, 2 teaspoons zest)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 scallions, white light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Flaked Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Add the barley to a saucepan and pour in 3 cups water. Add enough kosher salt so the water tastes mildy salty, about 3 teaspoons. Bring the water to a boil for one minute, then reduce it to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is chewy and softened. Drain the water and allow the barley to sit for about 10 more minutes to set.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat about 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook for about 3 minutes, or until just tender enough to be speared through with a fork, but not wilted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Then cut the asparagus into 3 inch spears.
  3. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together all of the first six ingredients. Then whisk the mixture vigorously while pouring in the olive oil to emulsify fully.
  4. To assemble the salad: Add the cooled barley to a bowl and toss in the asparagus spears and toasted pine nuts. Then drizzle in the lemony vinaigrette and toss well. Serve topped with flaked Parmesan.

More Asparagus & Grain Salad Inspiration:

Roasted Asparagus with Barley – The New York Times

Asparagus Grain Salad with Meyer Lemon, Almonds & Goat Cheese – The Kitchn

Mushroom, Barley, and Asparagus – Food Network

Barley Salad with Peas & Asparagus – Fine Cooking

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