Serve up gorgeous bouquets of grilled broccolini on a bed of chewy barley, caramelised shallots and sweet dried cranberries. A grain salad perfect for those cooler months or when you’re entertaining family and friends.
Why I Love Grilled Broccolini and Barley Salad
Barley is a grain I grew up with although it was not in savoury dishes. In southeast Asia, barley is often used in sweet drinks. Till this day, my mother still makes the barley drink that is boiled with pandan leaves, rock sugar and brown pear.
I learnt to eat barley in savoury dishes when I moved to Australia. My first encounter of barley was at a gastropub where I had lamb and barley stew. OMG….it was out of this world and opened up a whole new gamut of different ways I could use pearl barley.
Broccolini makes it onto our dinner table very regularly. I like to steam it and then add a little sesame oil and salt and pepper. Super easy side dish to have during the week.
Grilled broccolini is, of course, my favourite way to eat it. When the barbeque is on, we chuck a few on to quickly give it a char and serve up with some eye fillet.
This salad is a great combination of my favourite things, enhanced by crunchy pistachios and sweet dried cranberries and caramelised shallots.
It would make the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving and Christmas table!
What Is Broccolini?
If you have ever thought that broccolini is baby broccoli, you are not alone.
Broccolini is NOT immature broccoli. Broccolini is actually a hybrid vegetable that is a cross between a broccoli and gai lan, which is also known as Chinese broccoli. I grew up with both, so I’m stoked someone was smart enough to marry the two!
The broccolini inherits its florets from the broccoli, although less compact and its stalks from the gai lan which is crunchy and delightful.
There are many ways to eat broccolini. You can shave them raw, steam, blanch, boil, roast and for this recipe, grilled. Grilled broccolini gives the vegetable lovely charred notes while still crunchy.
Apart from the normal green broccolini, you can get purple broccolini in the winter months. They look absolutely gorgeous in our Rustic Black Rice Salad with Purple Broccolini.
What is Pearl Barley?
Pearl barley is a refined grain that is harvested from the ears of barley. It is then polished or “pearled” which means that the outer layer of the barley is removed, which makes it easier for cooking.
A lightly pearled barley has a tan colour while a well pearled barley is white.
The flavour of pearl barley is relatively neutral and in fact, doesn’t have any strong tastes.
What we do like about it however is its chewy texture and its ability to absorb all the flavours around it. If you’re adding it to stews or soups, you can be sure they taste fantastic!
Cooking pearl barley is easy, especially when compared to its whole grain counterpart.
Rinse the pearl barley before use to get rid of impurities. Just 1-part pearl barley to 3-4 parts water. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
I do suggest stirring it occasionally, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and watch the water level as sometimes they do evaporate very quickly. Then drain, rinse and use as you need.
If you love barley, try our Pomegranate, Barley and Freekeh Salad.
Why Are Pistachios So Expensive?
Of all the nuts that we can eat, pistachios have got to be one of my favourites, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
But when I do go and buy a bag of pistachios, I often grimace at the cost, so I do have to limit how much I buy. Quite a luxury to buy them just to have as a snack.
I was intrigued to understand why they were so expensive, and as always, research about food always fascinates me.
Pistachios are expensive for several reasons.
Finding the perfect location and weather to grow pistachio trees is challenging and therefore only limited to several regions in the world.
Once you find the right location, it takes 4 to 5 years before a pistachio tree will start bearing any nuts with full production only reaching its peak 15-20 years in!
If that wasn’t hard enough, the female trees will only produce about 18 kg or 40 pounds of hulled nuts. And they are “alternate bearing” trees where you’ll see high production in the one year followed by a low bearing year.
During the year where production is low, that is when the tree stores its nutrients for the following year.
Wow! A new appreciation as to why pistachios are so costly!
How to Make Grilled Broccolini and Barley Salad
How to Make Salad
Rinse pearl barley before use to get rid of any dirt or impurities.
In a medium sized saucepan, add ¾ cup of uncooked barley and cover with 3 cups of water.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally. Watch the water level and add more if evaporating too quickly. When cooked, drain, run under cold water and set aside to dry.
In a large sized mixing bowl, add broccolini, 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. In a grill pan on medium heat, grill broccolini for 8-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Remove the skin of the shallots. Slice very thinly. In a small frypan, add 1 tbsp of olive and fry shallots until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
Chop pistachio kernels.
Chop the green leaf of 1 spring onion finely.
For the other 4 stalks, cut off the bulb. We only need the green leaves.
How to Assemble Salad
When the broccolini has cooled, time to make 4 bouquets.
Lay one spring onion leaf horizontally. Place 4 broccolini on top in a bunch. Using the leaf, tie the broccolini together to resemble a small bouquet of flowers.
Repeat 3 more times.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the barley, caramelised shallots, ½ chopped pistachio, ½ chopped spring onions and dried cranberries.
Then add 1 tbsp of olive oil, juice of ½ lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
On a large serving platter, place the barley salad.
Then add the 4 bouquets of grilled broccolini on top.
Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped pistachios and spring onion on top.
This grilled broccolini salad is incredibly hearty and would make for a great lunch that you can pack up for work or to have on its own.
At the same time, the lovely bouquets and gorgeous colours are also great for festive celebrations and would make a great addition to your Christmas table.
Whatever the occasion or if you simply have a craving, this salad will serve you well!
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Grilled Broccolini and Barley Salad
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- Rinse pearl barley before use.
- In a medium sized saucepan, add ¾ cup of uncooked barley and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally. Watch the water level and add more if evaporating too quickly. When cooked, drain, run under cold water and set aside to dry.
- In a large sized mixing bowl, add broccolini, 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. In a grill pan on medium heat, grill broccolini for 8-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Remove the skin of the shallots. Slice very thinly. In a small fry pan, add 1 tbsp of olive and fry shallots until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- Chop pistachio kernels.
- Chop the green leaf of 1 sprig of spring onion finely.
- For the other 4 sprigs, cut off the bulb. We only need the green leaves.
- When the broccolini has cooled, time to make 4 bouquets. Lay one spring onion leaf horizontally. Place 4 broccolini on top in a bunch. Using the leaf, tie the broccolini together to resemble a small bouquet of flowers. Repeat 3 more times.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the barley, caramelised shallots, ½ chopped pistachio, ½ chopped spring onions and dried cranberries. Then add 1 tbsp of olive oil, juice of ½ lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly until well combined.
- On a large serving platter, place the barley salad.
- Then add the 4 bouquets of grilled broccolini on top.
- Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped pistachios and spring onion on top.
- Tying the broccolini is of course not necessary but just a bit of fun in how a salad can be presented, especially if you’re entertaining. Gorgeous little bundles of delicious vegetables.
- You can use any dried berries for this recipe. If you are worried about sugar content, try the unsweetened dried cranberries.
- Any barley will do if you can’t find pearl barley specifically. You may need to adjust cooking time pending on the type of barley you can get. You can also adjust cooking time if you like your barley al dente and still quite chewy.
- You can caramelise onions if shallots are proving to be an expensive option.
- Pistachios not only offer great flavours but also the crunch that’s needed for this salad. They can also be an expensive add on so you can use sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead.
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