My family and I had rented a nice little villa nestled at the top of a hill. The winding road was so narrow that we were constantly afraid we would go over the cliff. This didn’t bother the locals who were clearly accustomed to this as they drove at the speed of light. The 1940s villa was surrounded by olive and fig trees and after a quick splash in the pool we settled down around the table outside, taking in the superb view of the sun setting over the hills while enjoying a glass of white wine. My brother, my boyfriend and I cooked for our parents and my grandma every day of that week. It was interesting to see how roles has been reversed, though it had been hard to convince my grandma she did not have to lift a finger. Since I knew we were going to be eating a lot of pasta, I opted for a barley salad with a spinach/basil pesto instead. It was a healthier option and was served cold, perfect for the hot evening we were having. The basil plant was in the garden, ready to be picked, and I had just bought fresh feta, olives and sun-dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil from the nearest town.
Spinach Pesto Mediterranean Barley Salad
For the pesto:
1 large handful of fresh basil leaves
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
A small handful of pine nuts
1/3 cup of walnuts
1/3 cup of parmesan, grated
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tbsp. of olive oil
For the barley salad:
1 pound of barley
5 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup of parmesan
2/3 cup of pitted olives, roughly chopped
2/3 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 clove shallot, diced
1 lemon’s juice
Salt and pepper
In a large food processor, mix the spinach, basil, walnuts, pine nuts and garlic. Little by little, add the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture is somewhat smooth. You can add a little salt if you need.
Cook the barley according to the instructions on the back of the bag (mine says 10 min). Strain and mix with the pesto. Add the crumble feta, the chopped up olives, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, diced shallots, parmesan, lemon juice and salt/pepper. Mix gently. Let it sit for at least an hour (or more if you can) so that the barley soaks in all the flavors.
Keeps in the fridge up to a week and the flavors will only get better and better!