Springtime Barley Salad with Asparagus, Red Pepper and Spinach

Springtime Barley Salad with Asparagus, Red Pepper and Spinach

A delicious and hearty spring salad with sautéed asparagus, red pepper, spinach and pearl barley



1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 red bell pepper, cut into a medium dice

8 ounces thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium shallot, sliced thin

1 ½ cups cooked pearl barley, cooled (see note below)

4-5 cups baby spinach

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Soft goat cheese for crumbling over the top


  1. Combine vinegar and garlic together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add red pepper and cook until lightly browned and beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until nearly tender, about 2 minutes.  Add shallot and cook until softened, about 1 more minute. Remove from heat and add remaining teaspoon of sherry vinegar. Stir in cooled barley. Set aside to cool while you make the vinaigrette.

  3. Whisk remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil into garlic and sherry vinegar mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. Toss spinach with 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  5. Add asparagus and barley mixture to the medium bowl with the remaining vinaigrette.  Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  6. To serve, create a bed of spinach on the bottom of each plate.  Arrange the asparagus and barley mixture over the top. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and crumbled goat cheese.


To cook pearl barley: Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Season with salt. Add 1 cup pearl barley. Cook until tender, about 25-30 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool. If you want to expedite the cooling process, spread the cooked barley out on a sheet pan and place it in the refrigerator.  1 cup of dry pearl barley makes approximately 3 cups cooked so you will have more than you need. (Barley can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container).

Adapted from the May/June 2003 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

Keywords: spring, salad, asparagus, spinach, red pepper, goat cheese