Usually when someone learns I have Crohn’s disease, the first thing they ask is what that means. Translate to human, please. And I usually cut it down to the universal language: food. Which means that my answer is: you know all the things doctors tell you to eat for colon health? Fresh fruits and vegetables? Fiber? Whole grains? Yeah… all that will put me in the hospital.
I mean, not to be too dramatic or anything; I’d have to have a diet almost entirely of raw vegetables, whole grains and high-fiber foods for a while before I was whimpering my way to the ER, but it would happen, and sooner rather than later. The flip side of this is that I actually really like to eat foods that’d be considered healthy — I love salads, for example. I really like steel cut oats and I adore whole wheat pastries. I just have to eat them in moderation.
This gets thrown out the window when I make Bob Barley Salad.
The recipe is based on one my mom found in a magazine over ten years ago, but the one I make now has few ingredients in common with its ancestor. And somewhere in that last decade my dad started calling in “Bob Barley Salad” after he noticed that the salad colors are predominately red, green and gold¹.
Bob Barley salad is pretty much equal parts pearled barley, black-eyed peas, red peppers, corn, green stuff and vinaigrette. Simple. And motherfucking addictive. Trust. In fact, it is dangerous for me to cook it because I just eat it and eat it and eat it even though extensive experience has shown me that I’m going to be clutching my aching bowels and crying in about 24 hours. Such is life. I mean, I guess. Living is supposed to be painful, right? Right?
The black-eyed peas are key, here. Actually, it’s all key. You have to just trust me: this is one of those More Than the Sum of Its Parts salads. Anyway, the black-eyed peas (also known as field peas) can come from a can (easiest) or dry in a bag (hardest), but if you can get them frozen I highly recommend it: they are firm, earthy and mild, and even though you still have to cook them for a half an hour, they’re totally worth it. And! You already have to cook the barley, so you can just cook them together, no biggie.
Whoa, what was I thinking with the saturation levels on this photo?!
Everything else gets chopped and thrown into a bowl while the peas and barley are cooking. It’s a gorgeous, irresistible salad, but you’ll have to resist it because it just simply has to sit overnight before eating.
In fact, I usually add more cilantro and green onion on the second day to boost the flavor a little, making the salad officially a mild pain-in-the-ass to make, but you’ll do it because I say so. And all the while you are making it you’ll be muttering “I don’t get it, it’s just a grain and vinaigrette salad,” but 24 hours later you’ll wonder what wretched faerie came and tinkled all over your salad. You can’t stop eating it, can you? It’s not a gift, this recipe. It’s a curse.
Bob Barley Salad
makes a fuck ton
1 C. pearled barley
2 C. frozen black-eyed peas (or 1 can canned)
2 14oz. cans vegetable broth, plus 1 C. water to total 4 C
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 C. frozen corn
1/3 C. lemon juice
zest of 1 small lemon
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2-4 green onions, finely chopped
1 C. finely chopped cilantro
1 C. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
salt to taste
- Put the 2 cans of vegetable broth, 1 cup water and 1 cup barley into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- 15 minutes later, add the frozen black-eyed peas to the simmering barley. Stir occasionally over the next 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start making your vinaigrette. The most important part, I think, is to make sure the green onion and cilantro are chopped fine. This can be done in a Cuisinart, if you’re so inclined.
- In a large bowl, combine the vinaigrette with the diced peppers and the corn.
- When the barley and the peas are done cooking, dump them and their remaining juice into the bowl with the vinaigrette and veggies. There shouldn’t be too much juice in the barley pot, maybe a cup, but it’s flavorful and will eventually absorb, so don’t bother draining it.
- Stir everything with vigor, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, stir again and taste — you might feel like it needs a fresh pants-kick of cilantro and green onion like I always do, or you might not. It also probably will need salt by this time, so have at it.
¹No, it doesn’t matter to him that Bob Marley is Jamaican and not Ethiopian. My dad is a complicated, confused man. Who loves puns.June 10th, 2009 | Make It So