Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.

Seven Species Salad

Posted: January 20, 2010 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Tu B’shvat, the Jewish New Year for the trees, is next Saturday and I’m still unsure of my plans. Originally I had wanted to throw my own seder but it seems more and more like I won’t have the time (or money) to coordinate it! Luckily there are many excellent organizations having their own event but it’s usually for the best, I’ve found, to do things yourself. Or at least, it can be more fun that way.

Since Tu B’shvat is minor — the two Jewish cookbooks I own barely give it a paragraph, let alone specific recipes — and since it has been reinvented many times, I’m going to assume that as long as one sticks to the basic idea of the holidays as a New Year for the trees, then you can interpret and celebrate it any way you’d like, including what recipes to make!

One consistent custom, however, is to eat the seven species of fruit and grain mentioned in the Old Testament, which are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates; all of which are healthy, flavorful and nutritious. Just mentioning these foods all together sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it? The reason there generally aren’t recipes for Tu B’shvat is because the above-mentioned foods tend to be eaten separately and not cooked, like nibbling on a bunch of grapes rather than eating something deglazed in red wine, say. That doesn’t mean we can’t come up with something, hmm?

If you’d like to combine them all into one dish for efficiency’s sake, it’s very easy to transform this into a salad:

Seven Species Barley Salad
Serves 4 – 6

- 1 cup pre-soaked hulled barley, cooked and cooled (see below)
- 3 teaspoons pomegranate juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 4 – 6 figs, quartered
- Handful of red grapes, halved
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta or gorgonzola cheese
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup Whole wheat croutons (see recipe below)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- Dates, sliced, for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper

Note on the barley: though pearl barley is more common and takes faster to cook, the nutritious bran has been removed. In this way, pearl barley vs. hulled (complete) barely is like white rice vs. brown rice. If you want all the nutrition, go for the hulled, but you’ll need to pre-soak for many hours before cooking. Do this by placing the amount of barley desired in a bowl or container with double the amount of water and let sit on your countertop overnight. Done! You can even cook the barley in the water you soaked it in. Visit this website for more detailed info.

To boil barley: “The ratio of barley to water is 3 cups water for every 1 cup of barley. Over high heat, bring the barley and water, uncovered, to a boil. Cover, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the barley to simmer for 45 minutes. Do not add salt to your barley until AFTER it is cooked, since it can block absorption of water.

“Cooked barley will always retain some chewiness. You’ll know your barley is done when 20 percent of them have burst open. You can use the above method with non-pre-soaked barley too. Follow directions as above but cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours instead.”

For the whole wheat croutons:
- Whole wheat bread
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Chopped fresh oregano, basil, thyme, or other favorite spices

Take a couple of slices of whole wheat bread and crumble into bite-sized pieces or smaller. In a small bowl combine oil and spices. Lightly coat the bread pieces in the mixture and place on baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees until crispy, a few minutes.

Ok, onto the recipe itself!

While the barley is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Add the olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine the barley, red bell pepper, figs, grapes, preferred cheese, croutons and sliced almonds. Add the dressing and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with date slices. Serve immediately or allow to sit in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.

Important note: since I just made this up I haven’t attempted to make this recipe yet and I’m not sure if it works! Let me know if you try it yourself and tell me how it went! I suspect it needs lots of tweaking.

There are so many ways these seven ingredients can be combined! I’ll have more on that next week.


4 Comments on “Seven Species Salad”

  1. 1 Alyssa said at 8:54 am on January 21, 2010:

    Holy Cow Rita! This sounds so good :)

  2. 2 Bakezilla said at 9:00 am on January 21, 2010:

    Do you think for wheat, you could use bulgur? It’s a wheat product…

    Anyway, I am way down with celebrating a holiday I’ve never heard of before if involves food! And it sounds pretty cool, involving healthy, earth-based ingredients and celebrating trees… Thanks for the post!

  3. 3 Johanna said at 12:36 pm on January 21, 2010:

    I am in for ANYTHING that involves a pomegranate vinaigrette. Seriously. And I love new/varied grains, as I’ve mentioned previously!
    In general I can’t wait to try and make this work for me. Especially since it seems like it would be great running fuel, which is a definite bonus for me!

  4. 4 Rita said at 5:44 pm on January 21, 2010:

    Bakezilla, fantastic idea! I love bulgur wheat! Instead of croutons I could incorporate maybe 1/2 a cup of it with the barley and add toasted pinenuts. I’m definitely going to have to try this out soon.

    Joh – let me know if you make this and if it makes good running fuel!

    Alyssa – thanks!

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Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.