Easy dinner recipes: Barley-based salads and stews for Meatless Monday

An ancient grain used as far back as the Stone Age, barley doesn't just shine in cereals and breads. This hardy grain is perfect for lending depth to soups and stews, as well as salads. Check out these ideas.

For a Mediterranean barley salad, toss cooked barley with capers, olives, pine nuts and green onion. Brighten the flavors with fresh oregano and a simple dressing of lemon juice, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Best of all, the salad can be made ahead of time; the recipe comes together in a little over an hour, and the flavor only improves with time.

Craving something for cooler weather? This hearty lentil and barley stew comes together in under an hour, using 10 simple ingredients plus seasoning, including onion, celery, carrot, dried rosemary, pearled barley and lentils. Add a little tang, garnishing the finished dish with crumbled goat cheese and olives.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

You can't beat chilled soup if you're looking for something to counter warmer weather. This rich, bright and refreshing recipe for cucumber and yogurt soup with barley literally comes together in minutes.

You can find all of the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 ADDITIONAL easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less


Total time: 1 hour and 10 minutes plus chilling time for the salad
Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Adapted from "The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics" by Jessica Porter. Umeboshi (plum) vinegar can be found at Whole Foods and Asian markets.

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Pinch plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar plus 1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cups water

2 cups pearl or hulled barley

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried and crumbled

1/3 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives

1/3 cup drained capers

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

1. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, pinch sea salt, vinegar, shallot and olive oil in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. To prepare the salad, bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the barley with the remaining salt and bay leaves. Simmer until the barley is tender and all of the water is absorbed, 45 minutes to 1 hour total cooking time. Remove from heat and cool.

3. Place the barley in a large bowl, and stir in the dressing and oregano. Cover and chill for about 2 hours or until ready to serve. Before serving, gently stir in the olives, capers, pine nuts and green onions.

Each of 8 servings: 311 calories; 6 grams protein; 42 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 561 mg. sodium.


Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: This recipe is adapted from a 1971 edition of "The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook" by Jean Hewitt. I serve it with little bowls of crumbled goat feta cheese and olives on the side.

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)

1/2 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)

2 1/2 cups peeled chopped fresh or canned tomatoes

2 cups water

1/2 cup lentils

1/3 cup pearled barley

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1. In a large heavy saucepan heated over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil and sauté onion until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and cook until softened, 5 minutes longer.

2. Add the tomatoes, water, lentils, barley, one-half teaspoon salt, one-fourth teaspoon pepper and the rosemary. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat 25 minutes stirring occasionally, until the barley and lentils are almost tender.

3. Add carrots and cook five minutes longer, or until the barley and lentils are tender.

Each serving: 286 calories; 9 grams protein; 35 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 321 mg sodium.


Time: 45 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: 6

1 cup pearl barley

3 cups water


1 pound small cucumbers

4 cups yogurt

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced, seeded jalapeño pepper

1/3 cup finely diced red onion

1 tablespoon chopped mint, divided

3 tablespoons chopped dill, divided

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped


1. Cook the barley: Toast it in a dry 1-quart saucepan over medium heat until it smells browned. Remove the pan from the heat to avoid spattering and add the water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature.

2. If the cucumbers have been waxed, peel them. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape the center with a spoon to remove the seeds. Grate the cucumber into a large bowl and add the garlic, jalapeño, red onion, 2 teaspoons mint and 2 tablespoons dill. Add the yogurt and cooked barley, season aggressively with salt, and chill for a couple of hours.

3. To serve, add just enough milk to thin to the consistency of heavy cream (the cucumber will release some liquid, and the barley will absorb some, so the amount might vary). Add more salt to taste. Divide the soup among 6 chilled soup bowls. Top with the remaining 1 teaspoon mint, 2 teaspoons dill, a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and a dash of paprika.

Each serving: Calories 323; Protein 15 grams; Carbohydrates 45 grams; Fiber 6 grams; Fat 10 grams; Saturated fat 3 grams; Cholesterol 15 mg; Sugar 16 grams; Sodium 142 mg.


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