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Chevre Asparagus Barley Salad

asparagussalad2

Have you ever seen an asparagus field?

Call me naive, but I always thought asparagus grew in cute little bunches like one buys from the store. Not with the rubber-band, mind you, but I thought that they liked to at least kick it in groups. Represent the family, keeping it tight.

Turns out, asparagus grows in singular stalks, each protruding from the earth like green pencils stuck in play-dough or the flowers we drew with crayons as children. Laugh all you want, but seeing an asparagus field for the first time was a revelation, and I cried some inside knowing how disconnected I had been to my favorite vegetable to dip in aioli. 

Since spring is here, a time when goat cheese is especially lively, and magical asparagus grows in bunches, I wanted to make a salad that celebrated both seasonal beauties.

Spring and early summer is when a goat's mothers milk has the most protein and fat since it's used to nourish her new babies. More protein and fat = a happier, more lush and flavorful cheese. Plus, when there is more fat, the flavor of the natural herbs, thistle, and grasses that the animals eat is more noticeable in the cheese. Win-Win.

Back to the salad. After searching my pantry, I found some barley. A head of radicchio showed up in my fridge. The vinaigrette  is one that I often use to add an bright, light herb flavor to a delicate green salad or a little punch to a grain dish, such as this.

What do you do with your fresh chevre?

Notes

Barley takes from 45 to an hour to cook. If you precook the grain the night before, the salad is a quick fix for dinner.

I roasted the asparagus for this recipe; steaming or grilling also works well.

I sipped this salad with a Tocai Fruliano from Italy.

 

Asparagus, Chevre & Barley Salad

Preheat oven 400 degrees

1 cup uncooked pearl barley, rinsed

1 bay leaf

1 lb. asparagus

small head radicchio (about 8 oz pre-trimmed)

8-10 oz fresh goat cheese

4-5 Tbsp vinaigrette (recipe below)

salt and pepper to taste

1. Add barley, bay leaf, and 1/2 Tbsp salt to 4 cups boiling water in a medium-sized sauce pan. After water returns to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook grains for around 45 minutes.  Once cooked, drain and set aside to cool. 

2. Cut asparagus into 1 inch long pieces, discarding the very tough stems. Roast for seven to ten minutes. Asparagus should still be lightly crisp and bright green.

3. Placing the core on the cutting board and using it to mark the center of the veg, cut the radicchio into quarters. Cut out and discard the white core, then quarter radicchio again.

4. Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 4 Tbsp of vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste and more dressing if you like. I used 5 Tbsp.

 

Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. lemon juice (around 1 lemon)

1 medium clove garlic, minced

6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/3 bunch chopped tarragon and/or chervil

salt and pepper to taste

Put lemon juice in a small bowl and add garlic. Whisk in one Tbsp oil until blended. Add remaining oil and whisk until emulsified. Finish by stirring in herbs.