Tomato, Cucumber & Barley Salad
With the renaissance of slow food and weekend markets heirloom produce is gradually creeping back into the offering. A heirloom vegetable or heritage fruit is an old cultivar maintained by gardeners or farmers. Often preserved over decades or even centuries they are plants tended for both flavour and yield. Given my love of local produce I naturally adore heirloom varieties. They hint at abundant gardens of old and have always held a romantic allure akin to the more time-honoured nature of food. I suppose they appeal to my sense that cookery can be a slow, cultivated art; or at least that's what I hold out hope for.
Venture to local markets to find heirloom produce; such beauties are still in existence only by the hands of growers and quite frankly it's those green souls that get you excited about the distinction. Tomatoes are often the first to mind but varieties of corn, capsicum, cucumber, pumpkin, potato and bean are also becoming more readily available. In this plate sweet, sharp heirloom tomatoes combine with notes of barley, fresh grape and mild lemon cucumber (another heirloom). It's a fresh and fulfilling salad that is complimented beautifully by this tahini dressing. If you can't find heirloom varieties to include seasonal produce is a pleasant substitute.
Tomato, Cucumber & Barley Salad / Serves 4 - 6
3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley, soaked overnight
250g heirloom tomatoes or similar
2 heirloom lemon cucumber or similar
100g red grapes
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
Handful of basil leaves
Handful of oregano leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper
Optional: edible flowers and tahini dressing to serve.
Rinse the soaked barley and place it in a medium saucepan with approximately 1.25l of water. Bring the water to a boil before reducing the heat and allowing it to simmer for 20 minutes or until the grains are tender. Meanwhile wash and prepare the produce by halving the tomatoes and grapes and slicing the cucumber into rounds. Once the barley is cooked rinse it thoroughly under running water and set it aside to cool slightly. In a separate bowl whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar and honey until combined. Coarsely chop the herbs and add these with the dressing to the barley, gently folding it through. At this stage you can either toss through the tomatoes, grapes and cucumber for a more rustic salad otherwise spread the grains across a plate and assemble the produce on top. Garnish with edible flowers and tahini dressing to serve.
Seasonal guide / temperate climates
Tomatoes, early summer through late spring; Cucumber, early summer through mid autumn; Grapes, early summer through mid autumn
Select tomatoes that are deeply coloured and have a sweet, woody smell. They should be firm, with a little give and wrinkle free. To ripen the fruit store them at room temperature in the open and eat within two to three days. Some people strongly advocate against chilling tomatoes as it can hinder their flavour but in my experience when you buy fresh and in season produce storing them in the refrigerator is perfectly acceptable and often the best way to preserve them.
Asparagus, avocado, walnuts, feta or goat's cheese, apple