Peach & Walnut Barley Salad

“Do I dare to eat a peach?”
– TS Eliot in the Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock

For most of my life, I have been allergic to fresh peaches. (Tragic, no?) Especially considering that for five years I lived in Atlanta – aka Peach Heaven! I was also allergic to raw apples, plums, nectarines, and pears. For about 20 years, I could not eat any of these without having an allergic reaction (specifically itching and swelling of my lips and mouth – nothing that seemed too dangerous – just uncomfortable and annoying). While I’m sure I shouldn’t have been tempting fate to unleash a more severe reaction, I used to test the waters every now and then by eating a bite of one of these forbidden fruits just to see if maybe by some miracle I had outgrown the allergy. it seemed fairly safe to dip a toe in the water now and then to see if anything had changed. So year after year, I’d try apples as they came in season in the fall and peaches in the summer only to have the same disappointing allergic reaction. But then (Oh glory of glories!) LAST year, by some merciful act of the food gods…I ate an apple and had…no reaction! This momentous event kicked off months of raw-apple feasting in our house as I tested variety after variety in allergy-free glee! And this summer, I had the same thing happen with a peach! My first thought? “Amen and hallelujah! Let the testing of fresh fruit recipes commence!”

I found this one in Clean Eating’s July/August issue and could not wait to try it. It’s just the kind of thing I like to have for lunch – a nice balance of high-fiber whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, some good fat (this time by way of walnuts and olive oil), and a flavor-packed cheese. It is quick to prepare, keeps well, and can be eaten cold or at room temperature which makes it so versatile! It would be a great side dish for dinner, too, maybe paired with grilled chicken or pork?

I’ve dreamed up a few variations I’d like to try – adding fresh blueberries, using smoked paprika instead of chili powder, gorgonzola cheese…the possibilities are limited only by your taste preferences and imagination. And maybe your own allergies…so if you happen to be allergic to peaches (pause, moment of silence) may I suggest mango as an easy substitution?

Peach & Walnut Barley Salad
Adapted from Clean Eating magazine

serves 4

1 c. quick cooking barley
1 c. parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c. walnut pieces, chopped
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and diced (about 1 c.)
1 c. diced fresh strawberries
1/4 c red or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lime (or lemon) juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. goat cheese (original called for feta)

Cook barley according to package directions. Cool to room temperature before tossing with parsley, walnuts, peaches, strawberries and pepper.

In a separate bowl, whisk olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, and salt. Pour over barley mixture and toss. Crumble cheese over top and serve.

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