In a recent podcast about time, our pastor referred to the "margins of our lives" and I was immediately struck by the term. I interpreted it to be the time that we are not concerned with being busy. There is the work that we have to do to make a living, there is the busyness that we make by way of cleaning, errands, seeing friends, working out, and so on, and then there is the margin - the unplanned time. I don't know many people who have a lot of it, but it exists, and it is ours to fill. To fill with yet more busyness or leave open for small pleasures. I fall default to the former. I pack it full in attempt to make that margin productive and efficient. I fill it to manipulate the most out of that time, which I realized is completely defeating of the entire idea, and make work of it instead. Enjoyable work, but not really the "no schedule" type of time that I really love when I do surrender to it.
That message sunk in. I've since found myself on multiple jogs with Hugh, dual headsets in the ipod, listening to a zombie apocolypse running motivational app. That wasn't on my to do list, but may be one of the most humorous memories I have with my husband to date. We had a family bbq to celebrate our new niece on Sunday and I stopped a few times to recognize the simple things - how comfortable I am with my inlaws, the charm of quirky personalities, my niece who gives THEE best face squishy snuggles on the planet, that my mom will drop off extra flowers for the table in a moments notice, how helpful Hugh is, and chatting with my sister in law, a now great friend of mine, over a kitchen full of dishes...a sign of a good party. The busy gets done, but the margin is where the good stuff is.
I made this salad to share with all that summer produce that's blazing forth into my kitchen. It is super easy to throw together, and can be made in advance (a perfect bbq dish). The vegetables here are sturdy to hold their shape in the sea of grains, each cooked seperately to retain their flavors. I cooked them in a cast iron pan as our charcoal grill is somewhat of a project for a few veggies, but if you're grill is on, they'd be great cooked there too. Keep it easy, that's the best thing about this salad.
RATATOUILLE BARLEY SALAD // Serves 8
I used pearled barley because I had a loose bag that I wanted to use up. You could use quinoa, farro, bulgar, rice etc., you just need about 2 1/2-3 cups cooked of whichever you choose. If you like some kick, a few pinches of red pepper flakes would work nicely here.
1 cup pearled barley
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. agave nectar
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2'' slices
about 6 zucchini, 1/2'' coins
olive oil + lemon pepper for cooking
2 cups baby tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
grated parmesan, as desired
sea salt, as needed
Rinse the barley. Put it in a pot with about 3 cups of water. Bring it to a boil then down to a simmer, add a few pinches of salt and cook for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain any excess water and transfer the grains to a big mixing bowl. Add the minced garlic and a pinch of salt while the grains are still hot, and stir. Add the oil, vinegar and agave and stir to coat. Set aside.
Heat a hearty drizzle of olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium heat (you can alternatively grill the eggplant and zucchini). Add the zucchini and a generous sprinkle of lemon pepper and saute until well charred and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the barley bowl. Rub lemon pepper or similar seasoning on all sides of the eggplant. Sear the eggplants in the pan, this will have to be done in two batches. I like to cook both sides with a bunch of seasonings until the eggplant starts to soften and then add a drizzle of oil. Turns out a bit less greasy this way. Let the eggplant cool slightly. Chop it into 2'' chunks and add it to the barley bowl. Add the halved tomatoes, basil, parsley and toss everything to mix. Taste for salt (remember you're adding parm so go easy) and pepper and maybe a bit more vinegar if you prefer.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Generously sprinkle the grated parmesan on top and another pinch of fresh herbs and fresh pepper. Serve at room temperature.
Keeps well in the fridge for about five days.