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Barley is a wonderfully versatile grain with a rich, nutty flavor and a nice chewy, pasta-like consistency.

According to the Whole Grains Council, “Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with common varieties clocking in at about 17 percent fiber.” It’s a great addition to hearty soups, but it’s also nice in summer salads and makes a perfect alternative to pasta. This recipe is easy to throw together early in the day and store in the refrigerator, giving the ingredients a chance to blend and become more flavorful. You can even add other favorite summer ingredients, like cucumbers, zucchini, or cherry tomatoes.

Barley Summer Salad

8 large lettuce leaves

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Pearl Barley

3 cups water or vegetable broth

1 can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed well and drained

1/2 cup chopped raw unsalted cashews

1 cup carrots, shredded

1/2 cup dried currants

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped

5 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Bring the 1 cup barley and 3 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the barley, garbanzo beans, cashews, carrots, currants, scallions, basil, parsley and mint. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl; pour over the barley mixture and toss to coat. Chill for several hours.

Arrange lettuce leaves in a chilled salad bowl or platter. Turn barley-salad mixture into the bowl. Garnish with additional fresh parsley and carrot curls, if desired. Serves 8.

Per serving: 290 calories; 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 39 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 201 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 8 g fiber.

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