The Perfect Barley and Butternut Squash Salad
Of all the phenomena associated with fall, like twee sweaters or an obsession for all things “pumpkin spice,” there’s one affliction that’s met with shameful silence. It might be some sort of survival mechanism left over from our cave-dwelling days, one that forces us to put on weight for the harsh winter ahead. But the moment the temperature falls a switch seems to flip in our minds telling us to eat everything in sight.
However, rather than eating an entire box of doughnuts next time you’re feeling an insatiable autumn hunger, stay healthy by trying this fresh and filling, fall-inspired butternut and barley salad.
Unlike most produce-based salads, grain salads can be kept for days and many even taste better with time. As the roasted butternut squash, cherries, toasted pecans and nutty barley sit in the pomegranate dressing, the flavors meld into something far greater than the sum of its parts. This dish is light enough that you won’t feel sluggish, yet it’s hearty enough to satiate your cravings.
Another wonderful thing about grain salads: there’s no wrong way to eat them. Warm one up when you’re in the mood to get cozy. Let a bowl sit out at room temperature for intermittent grazing throughout the day. Eat straight from the fridge for a refreshing snack.
Also, don’t be afraid to double or triple this recipe to ensure leftovers. That way you’ll always have some on hand as you prepare to hibernate through the long, cold winter.
Allison Robicelli and her husband Matt developed this recipe and are the chefs behind the wildly popular Robicelli’s Bakery, as well as co-authors of Robicelli’s, A Love Story, with Cupcakes.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- ½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1½ cups pearl barley, rinsed
- 1 cup lightly toasted chopped pecans
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 5 large sage leaves, cut into thin strips
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 400°F.
Peel and seed squash, then dice into ¾-inch cubes. Add 2 tablespoons each of oil and honey, and toss. Spread onto foil-lined sheet pan, and roast 20 minutes. Gently flip squash with spatula. Roast additional 20 minutes, or until tender and caramelized.
Fill 4-quart saucepan two-thirds with water. Add heavy pinch of salt, cover and bring to boil. Add barley and cook until al dente, about 25 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water until it runs clear.
Place barley in large bowl along with toasted pecans, dried cherries, red onion, sage and roasted squash.
In small bowl, whisk together pomegranate molasses and apple cider vinegar. Slowly stream in remaining grapeseed oil. Pour over salad, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine. Set aside 2 hours at room temperature to marinate before serving. Serves 6–8.
Delgado 2014 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast); $30, 92 points. This warm, creamy Chardonnay perfectly falls in line with this autumnal salad. The wine has the acidity to match the dressing, while its baked-fruit flavors complement the squash.