I complain about summer so often that I’ve been feeling a little guilty. If I’m honest, it’s not all heat and sweat and showering three times a day. Now that the temperature has dropped a little from the highs of January, it’s also long walks at dusk, colourful dresses and divinely cooling cocktails. I remember that I do like summer after all, especially the food – sweet, fuzzy apricots, plums bursting with juice, barbecued sausages in bread with fried onions – easy, fresh, flavourful summer food.
It’s strange reading food blogs written by people in the northern hemisphere at the moment. The abundant photos of snow and ice seem so beautiful and otherworldly; other indeed, to the shimmering summer down under. While they are drinking red wine and eating ragu or bacon and beans, I can’t stand to eat anything heavy or stodgy. Curry and rice are out; fruit, yoghurt and salad are most definitely in.
Lately I’ve been making big bowls of colourful salad with zingy dressings that I can pick over for dinner and eat from a container at work the next day. The two favourites I am featuring here would be lovely in winter as a side for roasted chicken or lamb, but in summer they are delicious consumed alone. Based on grains, lentils, nuts and feta, they are robust enough to satisfy a hungry appetite yet light enough to cool and refresh.
The first recipe comes from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. This is a hearty salad with Mediterranean flavours, featuring chewy pearl barley tossed with roasted courgette and eggplant, a garlic and lemon dressing, and fistfuls of herbs and tomato. I’ve made this salad many times since Deb posted it nearly eight years ago, most of the time with barley, but lately also with farro. The recipe makes a large quantity which means it is perfect for a group as part of a barbecue buffet. If it’s just going to be me eating it over a couple of days, I usually halve the recipe and leave out the tomatoes, which can turn a little soggy in the fridge.
The second salad is a recent discovery courtesy of Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen. In the two months since Sara featured it on her site I have made it four times, loving its bold, gutsy flavours. The dressing is amazing, zingy and earthy all at once, and the pungent coriander and spring onions elevate the humble carrots to something quite extraordinary. I use cashews and currants instead of Sara’s pistachios and dates, because that’s what I tend to have on hand. I’ve also made it with mint instead of coriander, which is a nice variation although it doesn’t store as well.
Both salads make great leftovers, which means easy work lunches, or (even better) totally painless dinners. Warm summer evenings make standing at the stove a challenge, so knowing that I can just open the fridge and dig into a bowl of gorgeous salad has to be one of the best ever after-work relaxants. As summer begins to wane into autumn I might add hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken or toasted bread to my salad, but for now they are both perfect, just as they are.
Mediterranean Barley & Vegetable Salad
For the barley or farro:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 spring onions, finely sliced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 1/4 cups pearl barley or farro
1 3/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
For the vegetables:
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-2cm cubes
2 medium courgettes, cut into 1-2cm cubes
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Good sprinkle of salt and black pepper
For the dressing:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled goat or sheep feta
To cook the barley or farro, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a moderate heat, then add the spring onions, cumin, coriander, and chilli flakes and stir constantly for about 1 minute. Add the grains and stir for another 2 minutes. Add the stock and another 3/4 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a large salad bowl and spread out to cool.
While the grains are cooking, roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F. Toss the eggplant and courgette with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then spread in a large shallow baking pan. Roast until the vegetables are golden brown and tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add the vegetables to the bowl along with the barley or farro.
To make the dressing, whisk together the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add to the bowl along with the remaining vegetables, herbs and olives and toss to combine.
Marrakesh Carrot Salad
4 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup green lentils
1/2 cup currants
5 spring onions, finely sliced
Bunch of coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1/2 cup crumbled goat or sheep feta
For the dressing:
4 Tbsp avocado oil
2 limes, zest and juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Good pinch of chilli flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Wash the lentils then cover with water and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. While the lentils are cooking, toast the cashews in a frying pan over medium heat, tossing regularly until lightly charred here and there. Set to one side until cool and then roughly chop.
To make the dressing, use a fine grater to remove the zest from the limes. In a small bowl, mix the lime zest and juice with the olive oil, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, chilli flakes, and salt and pepper. The dressing is key, so pay attention to the flavours and balance acid with salt with fragrance.
Grate the carrots (a food processor is quickest) and add to a large bowl along with the sliced spring onions, coriander, currants, crumbled feta, cashews and lentils. Pour the dressing over and toss well to combine.
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Awesome salads – light and healthy yet still substantial! While salads and cocktails are the best part of summer I am looking forward to some cooler weather!!
I am too Stephanie, especially after the ultra humid night we had last night. Bring on winter!
I love salads in summer, and these two look amazing. The flavours are great 🙂
Hi Zeina I think you would enjoy these salads – they are your kind of flavours. I hope that the Sydney summer is treating you well. Still so hot up here in Brisbane!
Hi Chez, yes they are for sure 🙂 Summer here has been lovely lately after a bit of rain , mild with warm days.. Hope it cools down soon for U
This salad renewed my hope for warmer weather.
It’s such a summery dish, thank you for cheering me up with this!
You’re welcome, stay toasty Dana 🙂
Beautiful salads Chez, and perfect for this hot weather we keep having.
Thanks Michelle 🙂
i am extremely envious of your hot weather right now. it’s balmy 17F right now and i’m huddled under a blanket and wearing layers, hugging my space heater.
i am very much looking fwd to consuming salads this coming warm season. enjoy!
I just had to convert 17F to Celsius and omg that is freezing Lan! Today we are expecting a high of 30C (86F) which isn’t nearly as high as it gets. I’m off to the office right now to sit in the air con. Stay warm!
These salads are both wonderful! I have the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook and have been meaning to make the carrot salad for months! Thanks for blogging about it! Both salads are equally gorgeous! We didn’t have much of a winter here and this past weekend we were outside in the garden in shorts! I feel like I didn’t get a chance to eat wintery foods at all! Oh well, like you, I relish our summer foods and can’t wait for the best of the summer vegetables again!
The carrot salad is definitely my favourite of the two, so I’m sure you’ll love it. The seasons are always quite drawn out here in Queensland, Australia, and it’s so warm for much of the year. It always feels like summer lasts forever and that winter is over so quickly. I love a bit of cold and the hearty food that goes with it so I have learned to make the most of it while I can!
May I just say that your photos are just enchanting!!!
Thank you Mimi, you may indeed!
What beautiful salads! I love the abundance of fresh produce that summer brings and often find myself living on salads and fruit. I think I’ll be giving the barley salad a whirl tonight, given that I’ve got all those things coming out of our veggie garden right now and I’m reading from some fresh inspiration! Gorgeous photos too! 🙂
Hi Sam, yes the barley salad in particular is a celebration of summer produce. I envy your veggie garden! I’m sure that the salad will taste even better made with freshly picked produce. Thank you for your kind comment about the photos – I admire your photos immensely so that makes your feedback even more meaningful for me.
Yum! That carrot salad looks divine. I’m going to make it. And your food photography is superb. Keep ’em coming!
Thanks for the lovely feedback Lee! Good to know that the practice is paying off a little…Yes the carrot salad is fantastic – definitely my favourite out of the two recipes.
I’m feeling your pain! I spend Most of December and January in the cold of America, and I’m a winter person, so this last week’s hot weather is hitting me hard, too! I’ve been trying to do heaps of salads as well, but I feel like I run out of ideas quickly hehe thanks for these new ones! I love barley in a salad!
Hi Jess I’m glad that I could help you with your salad repertoire. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of making the same dishes all the time. Good luck cooling off! That cold coffee and gelato you featured in your last post sounds amazing – also very appropriate foods right now.
Ohh thank you 🙂 the gelati was a much welcomed break from the heat yesterday!!