Robin’s Test Kitchen: Barley and Kale Salad with Golden Beets and Feta

There is certainly a lot of advice on the internet about good (and bad) foods for athletes, and an even more fun past time would be to google “strange food habits of athletes”.  I have never studied nutrition in school and pretty sure (very sure)  I make not so wise food choices  and could always have room for improvement…  but as I transitioned from a life of stress eating a gallon of ice cream and  began my running and weight loss journey, I thought I’d share a recipe now and then that has become a popular dish I prepared at my house, and might just be good for running too.  But why is this a “running food” recipe?

Well, (sound the alarms!  This is the disclaimer:) I am no dietitian and this is merely advice from a common girl who likes to run a bit and likes to eat a lot…. but from what I can find on the world wide web, this recipe might not be half bad for a runner.  It certainly is colorful, nutrient dense and has some antioxidants (which the world wide web says is very very good for runners).

Kale–  Several foods become a popular “super food” or seem to be a trendy fad for awhile. Kale spent some time in the lime light, and for good reason.  According to Competitor Running, it’s a food we owe to our bodies (and our next PR).  Packed with nutrient rich photochemicals, rich in calcium, lutein, vitamin C, A, E and K, and tons of beta-carotene, and not to mention loaded with fiber.  It’s a leafy green we could all use a little bit more of.

Barley–  Carbs!  But that aside, barley does contain several minerals such as iron, magnesium and potassium.

Olive Oil–  low in saturate and trans fat and higher in monounsaturated fat that may lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Golden Beets–  Beets have many studies floating around on the web suggesting that they are a super food for athletes.  Nitrates, iron, potassium, and folic acid are a few of the benefits an athlete can benefit from adding this root veggie to your plate.

If you are not a fan of the “earthy taste” of beets, I hope you will still give this recipe a try.  The golden beet is much more mellow and sweeter but the vinegar and orange zest completely change the dynamic of the kale and beet.  My kids think of this as “the orange grain salad”.   The flavors will meld together more if left overnight in the fridge, so this is a perfect make-ahead of time dish and easy to pack for a lunch on the go.  I have to give credit to Bon Appetit for this recipe.
It is a zesty taste of sunshine and warmth.  Although the recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of orange zest to marinade with the kale (and soften it up and reduce it’s bitter taste), I end up using any remaining zest available from the orange as a garnish when the dish is complete.  Perfect served cold at a summer picnic or quick lunch.

Barley and Kale Salad with Golden Beets and Feta

serves 6

  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons White wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • course salt and fresh ground black pepper to season
  • 1 bunch of your favorite type* of kale (ribs removed and cut into 1″ squares)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 medium gold beets
  • 1 1/4 cup pearl barley
  • 4oz. feta
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, white wine vinegar, light brown sugar, and grated orange zest in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add kale and shallots and mix well until coated.  **Cover and chill until kale is tender.  About 3+ hours**

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place beets in a small baking dish and drizzle with oil.  Season with salt.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake until tender, approximately 45 minutes.  As these are cooking, I start the barley on the stove top.    Let beets cool completely and then peel.  Cut beets into 1/4″ pieces and set aside.

Cook barley until tender. (3 cups of water or stock per 1 cup of uncooked barley is the ratio I keep in mind.  Keep covered.)  Cook time will also run approximately 45 minutes.   Cool completely.

Add beets, barley, and feta to kale mixture.  Drizzle salad with remaining 2T oil and 2tsp. rice vinegar.

Fold gently and season with slat and pepper.

It’s a bright and cheerful salad!

I find this will store best for 2 days, but it’s always gone by then anyway.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

*  The original recipe calls for Tuscan, and while I know kale comes in many varieties with several different flavors and even leaf textures (and toughness) I tend to go for whatever happens to be on sale, in season and organic.  Sometimes, I just can’t find Tuscan kale.

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