I was invited to a Mediterranean-esque dinner party, meaning we weren’t trying to create actual Mediterranean food, but sort of use Mediterranean flavors as a unifying theme to create the menu. The hosts were doing chicken skewers and shrimp skewers. They were also providing an orzo and artichoke salad. Mediterranean-esque all the way!
I was responsible for bringing a side dish so I googled around for a bit and got to the Epicurious site for the recipe Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad originally printed in Gourmet Magazine in September of 2006.
Because I cook a lot, I’m confident with being loosey-goosey with certain recipes. If I can’t find the right ingredient I’ll eliminate or substitute. If I see that the recipe is making more than I’m going to need, I’ll scale back some ingredients. Conversely, some recipes seem skimpy and I may have to add something.
For this salad, the first thing I did was cut the barley from the recipe’s 1 and ¼ cup to just 1 cup. I use barley a lot and I know it really puffs up when cooked. Also, barley is a 2 to 1 grain (2 parts liquid to 1 part grain). The math on 1 cup is easier than the math on 1 1/4 cups. And, it uses one less measuring cup. And gosh, I’m lazy sometimes!
The second cut was taking the eggplant to 1 pound from 1 ½. The eggplant situation was based on economics. One eggplant weighs about 1 pound. To get to 1 ½ pounds I’d have to cut up 1 and ½ eggplants (obviously) leaving a half-eggplant just hanging around the kitchen. That eggplant half would (probably) eventually get thrown away, or, more likely, I would have given up and put all of it in the salad. Yield-wise, I decided to round down, not up, on eggplant use.
The other thing I did to get my salad more in the Mediterranean ball park (so to speak) was in addition to salt and pepper I used Penzey’s Turkish seasoning. Turkey touches the Mediterranean sea so I was just following the host’s instructions!
Not on purpose, I forgot to add 1 cup of parsley. It’s quietly waiting in the refrigerator even as we speak. The lack of fresh parsley and mint (because I couldn’t find it at the grocery) was definitely missed from a flavor and texture perspective. The fresh leaves would have taken some of the heaviness out of the salad. The brown barely could have used a the pop of color from fresh herbs, too. But yield-wise, I didn’t need more volume, so I’m okay with the omission.
One of the things I find curious about recipes is how serving sizes are determined. This recipe said I would get 4 main course portions or 8 side dish portions. Even reducing ingredients I still got almost 9 cups of salad. Every one of the 6 people at dinner had a scoop of salad on their plate, and I still came home with over half. So yeah, The Epicurious yield-math is suspicious. I’ll be eating leftover Mediterranean salad for a couple days.
Luckily, the salad turned out well. [I pin a lot of the flavor on the Turkish seasoning.] Now I just need to figure out what to do with the parsley.