Celebrate American Jewish Heritage with an Irresistible Summer Barley Salad

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Jamie Geller
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Barley, one of the seven species mentioned in the bible, takes a star tour in this make-ahead salad perfect for Memorial Day or Shabbat lunch.

On Thursday, May 27, 2010, the White House will host the first ever reception honoring May as American Jewish Heritage Month. We can join the celebration with this fabulous recipe from my friend and colleague, Tina Wasserman. Tina is an award-winning cooking instructor specializing in contemporary kosher cuisine. She is one of only four members of Les Dames d’Escoffier in the United States honored as an expert in Jewish cooking and culinary history. Tina's book,  Entrée to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora, is available from the URJ Books and Barnes & Noble.

Tina Wasserman's Entree to Judaism

Here are Tina's wonderful introductory notes and her recipe.

1654 Barley Salad

Shavuot has come and gone but we can still celebrate the bounty of its original celebration; the barley harvest. Although great in soups and stews, barley is a perfect grain to use as a base for pilafs and cold salads now that the warm weather is here.

  • Barley is indigenous to Israel.  It was consumed more in porridge form than ground to make flour for bread
  • Research shows that barley’s soluble fiber promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption.
  • Hulled barley is slightly polished to remove only the tough outer hull.
  • Pearl barley undergoes additional polishing which removes the outer bran layer.  Slightly less nutritious but more popular because it is less chewy and cooks faster.
  • The major portion of modern barley crops is used for making beer.

I created this salad in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Jews in America. The method of gardening in Plymouth, Massachusetts, inspired the choice of ingredients.  Small squares of land were cultivated next to the house to provide food for the family.  The Native Americans taught the pilgrims how to commingle different crops in one square bed to enhance the growth of all.  A fish head was buried in the center of a three-foot square.  Corn was planted directly on top to absorb the nitrogen from the decomposing head.  Pole beans were planted around the corn to protect and fertilize the corn as well.  Cucumbers or squash was planted around the perimeter because their rough leaves kept animals and playful children away from the vegetation.  Tomatoes were native to the Americas but not necessarily used in salads until much later; I have included them for the modern palate.

Recipe:1654 Barley Salad

What do you think of American Jewish Heritage month? Did you attend any related events or celebrations? Please let me know with your comments.