Ode to my oven: barley & roasted cauliflower salad

The oven is fixed and all is right with the world! I am already back in the groove, roasting anything and everything. My fail-safe option for easy dinners is always to roast veggies and pop them into some sort of grain. So with my beloved oven out of order, things got pretty hairy for a while. We ate a lot of pasta and spent a lot of time cajoling veggies into caramelizing on the stove. And sure, those veggies were delicious, but do you know what’s even better? Chucking something into an oven for half an hour, totally forgetting about it, and then being reminded by a heavenly scent. Add some parchment paper into the mix and you don’t even have to do any dishes! Win, win, win.

Ah, oven. My loyal friend. This barley and roasted cauliflower salad was all I wanted in my heart of hearts to celebrate your return.

roasted cauliflower salad

In my oven-less time I seemed to stumble exclusively upon recipes that called for one. I became uncharacteristically interested in baking. I dreamed of pizza and galettes and savoury pies. I longed to roast unthinkable things. It was like any time in my life I’ve ever tried to ‘cut back’ on anything – I suddenly became obsessed to a greater degree than I ever had been before.

When the kind man who came to fix the oven was done, I literally whooped out loud. Sure I tried to make it seem like I was kidding, but given my limited/non-existent ability to make nuanced jokes in Dutch and my totally transparent face, I don’t think I fooled him.

roasted cauliflower salad

roasted cauliflower salad

roasted cauliflower salad

Anywho! For a dish starring humble cauliflower and barley of all things, this salad is surprisingly indulgent. With the roast-y goodness of the cauliflower, the creamy avocado and the crunchy, toasty nuts, you’ve got yourself a really rich and satisfying combination. As a bonus, it keeps really well in the fridge for a few days, as long as you don’t add your avocado in until you’re ready to eat, and it’s just as delicious at room temperature as it is warm.

roasted cauliflower salad

roasted cauliflower salad

If you haven’t roasted cauliflower before and/or you think you don’t like cauliflower to begin with, trust me on this one. Roasted cauliflower is a whole other animal than its boiled or steamed counterpart. In the dark, behind its closed door, the oven works its magic on it, taking it from slightly cabbage-y to buttery, nutty deliciousness.

roasted cauliflower salad

So at the risk of getting weird/creepy in my oven blabberings, I’ll leave you with the ‘recipe’ now. But you really shouldn’t worry about precise amounts here. It’s a salad – you can fix it up to your own exacting specifications! You could also replace the barley for something like farro or freekeh for a similar texture. Anything goes!

Barley & roasted cauliflower salad

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 2 portions

Barley & roasted cauliflower salad

Ingredients

2 portions dry barley
half a large cauliflower, cut into florets
2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
small handful of almonds, roughly chopped
small handful of sunflower seeds
1 avocado, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
alfalfa sprouts for topping, optional

Instructions

1. Start by preheating the oven to 225 C/435 F and getting a pan of salted water (1 - 1.5L) to boil.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the cauliflower florets in about 2 tbsp of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Then lay the florets evenly on a baking sheet and pop into the oven until golden, about 20-25 minutes.*
3. Boil the barley according to your package instructions, or until al dente - about 8-10 minutes. Drain well.
4. In a frying pan over high heat, toast the almonds and sunflower seeds until they just start to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they burn quickly!
5. Put the spinach into the bowl you used for the cauliflower, then toss in the barley, 1 tbsp of olive oil, the lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt. Toss well to combine.
6. Serve each portion with a sprinkle of the toasted almonds and seeds, half of the sliced avocado, and alfalfa sprouts, if desired. Dig in!
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