Peach barley salad & how to make salad that doesn’t suck

Peach Barley Salad + How to Make a Salad That Doesn't Suck | A Dash of Compassion

There was a time in my life when I didn’t like salads. I thought of them as nothing but stingy, unfulfilling and just plain boring. But you’d never know it by the look of my meals today (ahem, a lot of salad).

Too often, salad is an afterthought, served as a first course or an accompaniment to other dishes, but there’s no reason for it to play second fiddle to the main meal. Ever since going vegan, I’ve learned through experimenting and diversifying my palate that a salad doesn’t have to be a depressing plate of pale lettuce topped with itty bitty tomatoes, a few slices of tasteless cucumbers and bottled dressing. A well-made vegan salad, in particular, really doesn’t have to suck.

Peach Barley Salad + How to Make a Salad That Doesn't Suck | A Dash of Compassion

A salad can be made up of pretty much anything you want: lots of greens, of course, but also other vegetables, grains, fruit and protein. Even in the cooler months or darkest days of winter, you can celebrate seasonal produce and feature at least some local ingredients—say fresh, tender asparagus, cubed beets and sprouts in spring and root vegetables, eggplant and Brussel sprouts in fall.

A salad I’d prepare for dinner, for instance, can feature avocado, cooked grains, all kinds of greens and other vegetables, as well as chickpeas or lentils and a creamy dressing made with cashews, lemon juice and garlic. I’d improvise based on what’s available or what I’m craving, as I usually do. And so can you!

There’s really no single way to make a salad and also no wrong way. When it comes to salad, anything goes! Let your imagination run wild with the goal of preparing a healthful meal: maybe baked tofu or quinoa left over from dinner yesterday, swiss chard you sautéed or green beans you steamed to have with the quinoa or tofu, and maybe lentils leftover from the day before.

Peach Barley Salad + How to Make a Salad That Doesn't Suck | A Dash of Compassion

This peach barley salad I threw together recently celebrates fresh, juicy peaches that play off a batch of tender, chewy pearl barley, a very under-appreciated grain in my opinion. You might think peaches in salad don’t make sense, but it works. Together with chickpeas, cucumber, grape tomatoes, fresh parsley and a tangy tahini dressing, it makes for a filling, supper-worthy salad when served over a bed of curly kale and lettuce.

Four tips for taking that side-dish salad to the next level:

  • Celebrate what’s in season: Salads will only be as good as the ingredients you use, so aim for a variety of fresh seasonal veggies like young carrots, early beets, fresh basil and real, local tomatoes.
  • Keep the salad dressing simple: A little oil and balsamic vinegar can dress up any plate, or blitz together a mix of tahini, lemon and parsley for a creamy, heartier dressing. Experiment with flavours and incorporate the five basic tastes (think sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami) and make a new batch every week to keep things interesting.
  • Play with colour: Don’t forget strawberries and raspberries, bright fresh peas, steamed broccoli or sauteed green beans. In the cooler months, throw on some roasted, cubed squash or carrots.
  • Add complex carbs and protein: For a heartier meal, add steamed sweet potato wedges, cooked whole grains or beans, as well as a serving of protein like edamame, tempeh or tofu. Sprinkle on some hemp hearts, chia seeds or toasted nuts and seeds for an extra boost.

Need real examples? Check out my Salads! board on Pinterest.

Now it’s time for lunch!

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Peach barley salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


For the dressing:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp water

For the salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked hulled or pearl barley
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 large peach, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • shredded curly kale & lettuce, for serving


For the dressing:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until combined.

For the salad:

  1. Combine the barley and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Once it has reached a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and continue to cook until barley is soft. For pearl barley, cook for 25 minutes. For hulled barley, cook for 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot as barley tends to give off a lot of foam and can cause the pot to boil over. The barley is done when the water has been absorbed and the barley is soft and chewy. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the peach, cucumber, grape tomatoes, parsley, chickpeas and cooked barley.
  4. Drizzle salad with dressing (depending on your tastes, you might not want to use it all) and mix to combine. Serve over shredded curly kale and lettuce.



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