Looking for a new and different salad idea? Try this delicious and nutritious combination of barley, cauliflower, walnuts, parsley leaves, and ricotta salata. It's got a perfect pairing of flavors and textures, and it's terrific warm or cold. (It's also great with diced cooked bacon, if you're feeling indulgent). Take this salad along on picnics or serve it with barbecued meats or fish.
cauliflower (cored and cut into 1-inch florets, about 4 cups)
extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
Freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice
garlic (finely minced)
Grated zest of 1/2 fresh lemon
crumbled ricotta salata (or feta cheese)
fresh flat leaf parsley (leaves)
toasted walnuts (coarsely chopped)
Place the barley in a large saucepan and add 2 cups of cold water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the barley to a fine-mesh sieve and drain. Rinse the grains with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain again thoroughly. Transfer the barley to a large bowl.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
Place the cauliflower florets on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Use your hands to toss the florets in the oil, making sure all surfaces are coated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the cauliflower, stirring once, until the florets are browned and crisp-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the bowl of barley.
To make the vinaigrette, place the lemon juice, garlic, the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a glass jar and seal the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside at room temperature. The dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature and shake vigorously before using.
Add the vinaigrette to the barley-cauliflower mixture and toss to coat the grains. Stir in the ricotta salata, parsley, and walnuts, and toss again. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. The salad can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 day before serving.