Monday, August 23, 2010

Buttermilk Barley Salad: Completely reasonable - and completely delicious

The day before I left for my trip up to Pebble Beach, I got it in my head that I wanted to make peach and blueberry buttermilk oatmeal muffins to take with me to the airport the next morning. In my illogical mind, it made perfect sense. I’d make a quick dash to Gelson’s Market after my 6:15 pm Bar Method class for the necessary carton of buttermilk, cook dinner, make the muffins, write a quick post, finish packing and still have time to watch “Huge” on ABC Family before going to bed at a reasonable hour.

At the time, I didn’t think about the extra effort it would take to add a baking project to my already hectic evening. I thought it was completely logical – and very Martha Stewart-esque.

“Just think of all the time I’ll save not eating breakfast before I leave for the airport. I can take the muffins with me and savor them at my gate while everyone else is stuck noshing on limp McDonald’s hash browns and tepid Egg McMuffins!” I reasoned with pleasure.

It didn’t occur to me that I might be able to suck it up and force down (shudder) airport food like the supposedly palatable oatmeal from Starbucks. And I certainly didn’t consider the logistics of transporting two freshly baked muffins in a tote bag that would be shoved around and rifled through by security courtesy of my Droid smartphone that was a little too smart for the x-ray machine.

“I’m being domestic! Stepfordian!” I thought on Monday night, as I baked every ounce of my energy away.

I was not feeling quite so domestic the following morning when I arrived at my gate exhausted and blurry-eyed with two very squashed peach blueberry muffins. As I sipped a cup of hot green Tazo tea and nibbled on the sad little pastries, I soon discovered that they were not nearly as delightful at room temperature as they are when fresh out of the oven. The whole affair was a fail.

A big one.

When I returned from my trip last Monday night, I was further shamed for my foolishness with the nearly full container of buttermilk that I’d left behind in my fridge.

“What am I going to do with all this buttermilk?” I thought with disgust. After all my indulgent eating in the Pebble Beach area, I was not keen on the idea of using it to make pancakes, buttery biscuits or cupcakes. All I wanted to eat was salad, whole grains and vegetables.

Lots and lots of vegetables.

It didn't occur to me that I might be able to use up my buttermilk and eat my antioxidants too until I stumbled upon Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Buttermilk Farro Salad that she had posted on 101 Cookbooks the weekend prior.

After three nights of eating the fiberlicious salad, I wasn’t feeling quite so foolish about my failed buttermilk muffins any more. I felt a little wicked smart, actually. And maybe even a little Martha Stewart-esque too.

Buttermilk Barley Salad Recipe
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

Notes: I used pearled barley instead of farro, reduced the amount of olive oil in the dressing, added tofu for more protein, increased the amount of dill and vegetables, used dried thyme instead of fresh, and omitted the chives.

10 small radishes, sliced paper thin
3 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
1 large head of fennel, trimmed and sliced paper thin
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups vegetable broth
12-ounces extra-firm tofu cut into cubes
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Olive oil

1 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup good-quality white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped dill
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Rinse barley thoroughly. Heat large frying pan over medium-high heat, add barley, and toast until lightly browned (approximately 5-7 minutes). Heat two cups of vegetable broth to boiling in medium-sized saucepan, add the barley, reduce heat and cover. Simmer approximately an hour to an hour and 15 minutes or until barley is tender. Add additional water as needed.

While barley is cooking, prepare the dressing. Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board. Mash into a paste using the flat side of your knife. Place in a medium bowl or jar, then add the buttermilk and vinegar. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the herbs.

When barley is finished cooking, uncover, and set aside to come to room temperature. Heat frying pan over medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil to lightly coat the pan and then add the tofu cubes. Stir-fry over medium heat until browned and slightly crisp to the touch. Stir in the tablespoon of dill, and then turn off the heat. Add the barley, radishes, zucchini, and fennel to the pan. Add a half cup of the dressing, toss together, and then let sit for ten minutes (again, with the heat off). Taste, and adjust with more dressing, if needed, and salt to taste.


Ashley said...

perfect desperation dinner solution.

stuffycheaks said...

what a smart alternative and way healthier. BTW.. i look forward to the airport mcmuffins and hash browns..

Esi said...

Usually, for me, leftover buttermilk goes into something I shouldn't be eating. This is a great way to use it up and of course, now I want it.

Diana said...

Ashley - If so, then desperation never tasted better!

Stephanie - Haha, most people do! I probably would too if I got over my fear of ingesting one.

Esi - Exactly! I have the same problem! And I didn't need any more muffins around the house adding to my muffin top.

Pearl said...

what a great use of buttermilk! looks absolutely delicious!

Anna A. said...

I'll be honest with you, radishes (raw) kind of scare me. And so does (raw?) buttermilk. But I trust your TALFy instincts and I'm sure this is great. On the ze list!

Kung Food Panda said...


Never thought you could add buttermilk to a salad.

Diana said...

Pearl - Thanks! Hope you aer doing well!

Anna - I felt the same way about radishes before this salad! Wasn't crazy about the way they made my mouth feel. But when sliced super thin, they are great- add a great crunch!

Danny - You can and you should! ;) Get those knives ready!