Thursday, May 31, 2012

Purple Barley Salad with Apples, Celery and Bacon

With warmer days and sunnier evenings, dinner salads are in order. This substantial salad, which uses the purple barley from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA, was inspired by a recipe from Elin England, CSA member and author of Eating Close to Home. It combines sage-infused barley with cubes of crunchy apples and celery root lightly sauteed with bacon. 

I served the salad on a bed of lettuce and celery fronds with a lemony mustard dressing.

As a final touch, I deep fried some sage leaves in the remaining bacon fat for a crispy, tasty garnish.

Purple Barley Salad with Apples, Celery and Bacon
makes 4 dinner salads

1 cup hulled barley (purple if you can find it)
3 cups water
6 fronds of sage leaves (divide use)
1 lemon (divided use)
1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces
1 medium sized celery root
1 firm apple, such as a honey crisp
4 strips of bacon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 small head of lettuce or 4 big handfuls of salad greens

1. Soak the barley overnight. The next day, drain and add 3 cups of fresh water, 2 fronds of sage leaves and a generous amount of salt. Use a vegetable peeler to make a long strip of lemon rind and add this to the pot. Bring the water to a simmer and cook gently, partially covered, over low heat until the barley is tender but still has a lot of bite, about 90 minutes. Adjust seasoning and discard the lemon rind and sage leaves. You can cook the barley ahead and reheat it before finishing the salad.

2. Peel the celery root (reserve any celery leaves for your salad) and chop into about ¼ inch dice. Peel the apple and chop into about ½ inch dice.

3. Heat a skillet big enough to cook the bacon. When it is warm, toast the walnut pieces until they are fragrant but be sure not to burn them. Reserve.

4. Now cook the bacon until it is nice and crisp. Drain on paper towels.

5. Over medium heat, submerge the remaining 4 sage fronds, stem side up, into the hot rendered bacon fat and let them cook for a minute. Rescue them out of the vat of oil by their stems, and let them recover from their adventure on the paper towels. They will crisp up into crunchy treats.

6. Reserve 1 tsp of rendered bacon fat for your dressing, and pour off all but about 1 Tbsp of the fat from the pan. Over medium heat, add the diced celery root and sauté for a minute. Now add the diced apple and sauté for a minute longer. You want these to be flavored by the bacon fat but still have some crunch. Transfer the sautéed celery root and apple to a large bowl. Stir in the warm barley and the toasted walnuts. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

7. Mix up a dressing for your lettuce by combining juice from one lemon, mustard and honey and then whisking in the reserved 1 tsp of bacon fat. Toss your lettuce leaves, and celery leaves if you have some, with the dressing and arrange on four plates. Top each with a quarter of the barley mixture. Crumble a piece of bacon over each mound and top with the deep fried sage leaves. Enjoy warm.

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