My Favorite Salad


I eat a lot of salads throughout the year, even in the winter. I love all salad ingredients – lettuces, avocados, beets, raw vegetables, grilled meat or fish, some nuts or seeds and cheese… I love to mix them up and also pay great attention to my vinaigrettes.

But then, there’s this one salad I’ve actually made multiple times for friends. (My husband doesn’t eat salads.) I don’t remember the source of the recipe, because mine was a magazine recipe cut and glued to an index card from decades ago.

It’s a composed salad, and these are the ingredients: Barley, purple cabbage, carrots, celery, dried cherries, and feta cheese. Intrigued? I was, and now I’m hooked.

It’s very pretty served layered in a trifle dish, or any deep clear bowl. Each component is treated separately for maximum flavor.

The recipe is really in two parts. One part, the vinaigrette. The other part, the salad itself.

My Favorite Salad

In a small blender, combine
1 cup of good olive oil
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
Juice of 2 large lemons
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of Dijon-style mustard
Blend until smooth.

2 cups hulled barley
Grated carrots, about 5 cups
1 whole purple cabbage, thinly sliced, about 5 cups
1/2 head celery, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
12 ounces crumbled goat cheese

First prepare the vinaigrette. Set aside at room temperature.

Cook the barley in 4 cups of water or broth if you prefer. Let cool. Once it’s almost room temperature, mix the barley with about 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and set aside.

Place the grated carrots in a small bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette, stir well, and set aside.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and toss with about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. Have the rest of the ingredients handy.

Place the sliced celery in a smaller bowl and add a tablespoon of vinaigrette. Toss well and set aside.

Layer half of the barley in the bottom of your salad serving bowl or dish. Cover with the celery.

Then add half of the cherries. And top with half of the goat cheese.

Then cover with 1/2 of the cabbage. Then all of the carrots.

Then the remaining barley.

Top off with the last of the dried cherries and goat cheese.

Let the salad sit for at least an hour. Or, make it the day before and refrigerate it overnight, letting all of the flavors meld together. But serve at room temperature.

I also serve this salad with extra vinaigrette for those who want that extra hit of vinegar.

And, if this salad is for those who require protein, it is fabulous with added grilled chicken or avocado.

Mix and match your favorite ingredients – lentils would work instead of barley, for example – and I’m not a huge celery fan, which is why I only allowed one layer of it. But do include the dried cherries and goat cheese!

117 thoughts on “My Favorite Salad

  1. So glad you mentioned about the celery. Oddly, one of my favourite (and simplest) soups is celery. Unfortunately, can’t stand the smell of it raw!
    – Sour cherries with pearl barley – I’m stealing that as well :)

  2. What a beautiful salad Mimi! I love the different layers in it. I wish I could get my hands on some dried cherries. They’re so expensive over here. I might try this and substitute dried cranberries? I’m sure it’ll still be delicious xx

  3. When I think layered salads, I always think of my grandmother’s: Iceberg lettuce, frozen peas, celery, bacon, lots of mayo and canned Parmesan cheese. :). I love the barley and goat cheese in this and that I bet it is good for leftover lunches. Thank you!

  4. This is a good looking salad which is just what I like to eat – minus the cabbage. I know, it’s healthy, but not for me. I’d have to sub something else for the cabbage. But all the rest of the salad ingredients are lovely.
    And, please tell, I would love to know what you saved the other half of the cabbage for? :)

    • Thank you. Cabbage is harsh for some people, I understand. I slice it and use in salads. I’d cook with it more but my husband thinks he doesn’t like it!

  5. Barley in a salad? Well why not! That’s new to me, but I’d quite happily try it. Although I think I can only get Barley flakes at my local health food store. So might have to opt for lentils instead as you suggest. I take it red lentils would OK?

    • Red lentils are too soft, which is why they’re good in soup, like you just made. Le Puy lentils hold their shape well. But what about wheat berries or oat groats? Some kind of cooked whole grain? Even pearled barley, although I prefer hulled.

    • A very traditional dressing, but i really love that all of the different vegetables and barley are “marinated” slightly in the dressing before composing the dressing!

  6. Chef Mimi, I’m a sucker for my “favorite” fill-in-the-blank recipes and trust your judgment and sense of taste. Today I printed off your email (w/o photos) before I even headed to your post for “how-to’s'” because it sounded SO good… pretty AND tasty! Will probably make mine with brown rice due to the lack of lentils in my pantry (and gluten allergies) but I’m looking forward to diving into the first forkful this weekend in my clear salad bowl at last, even if it’s just for one. My hubby doesn’t eat salads either! :)

    • Brown rice will be just as good! I just like hulled barley cause it’s so chewy! The good thing is that the leftover salad is really good, and doesn’t get all wilty like a green salad.

      • Mimi, my mise en place is marinating and my mouth is watering. (BTW, your vinaigrette is addictive… saving the rest for spinach salad.) It was fun and helpful to read through the comments, too. Always something to learn! I’m glad it “keeps” — good to know — more for tomorrow! :)

  7. Mimi, When I first saw the image of your salad it took me back to the 60s when layered salads seemed to be the rage. I remember my mother making one simalar to the one described above in your comments.
    We love barley but can’t get pearl barely here, only crushed. Wheat berries are no problem so that’s the way I’ll go. Thanks for sharing a great retro dish.

  8. Wow! What a tasty salad. Full of delicious flavours and textures that’s looks so filling. Love that you make a homemade vinaigrette too.

    • I really like that all of the parts are marinated in the dressing first, so none of the vegetables are dry.

  9. Mimi – this salad is so beautiful and I am so impressed. I serve a salad after almost every meal but either serve butter lettuce with avocado and a simple vinaigrette of arugula with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I am so boring!

    • It was mostly because of the photos! They were so terrible. And I had a hard time making this one look good!

  10. I really like the idea of presenting a salad this way. It’s so pretty and fun! Love that you mix that luscious vinaigrette into each component before layering it. And now I’m hungry for it. :-)

    • That’s the part I love the best. Gordon Ramsay taught me that every component of a recipe should be seasoned, and in a way, that’s what’s happening in this recipe, with the various vegetables marinated in dressing first.

  11. This is heaven, Mimi! I love salads and this could easily become my favorite, too! The dried cherries are a very nice change from the dried cranberries I frequently use. Just a slight difference, but I’m looking forward to giving this a try. It’s a sure winner. :-)

    • The dried tart cherries are bigger and chewier, which is fun, but I love all dried fruit bits! The salad is fabulous – hope you get a chance to try it!

  12. Not only does this salad give a gorgeous presentation, is sounds FANTASTIC as well. The layers are so beautiful in the glass salad bowl and would be wonderful served at any brunch. I love dijon mustard in a vinaigrette. It adds such intensity. As always, thanks for sharing!

    • You are so welcome. To me, Dijon mustard is a traditional French thing, but I don’t know if that’s really true or not. I like that it’s part lemon juice and part vinegar. It’s just really good, and adds to the overall flavor of all of the vegetable parts. The additional of feta and dried cherries works so well!

    • It is definitely worth using a trifle bowl for a pretty layered salad as this one. But I should probably use it more often, since to me most all salads are pretty!

  13. I love salads, too, Mimi, and I will try your salad. Two questions – what makes your vinaigrette look so white? And how do you serve your salad without spilling it all over the place? i certainly would, trying to get to the barley (which I love) on the bottom of the bowl :). This one looks like akeeper!

    • When I blended the dressing, it emulsified, which changed the color. When I serve it, there’s definitely some spillage… it isn’t easy to serve for sure, but so worth eating! The barley is in two layers at least. I should probably make sure and duplicate layering all of the ingredients so you don’t have to dig to the bottom!

  14. A fantastic sounding and beautiful salad, Mimi! Also a new use for my trifle dish! It needs to be used more, too! That dressing has my mouth watering just reading the ingredients, too!

    • Thanks, Laura. It’s a pretty salad for sure, and all of the flavors and textures are perfect for salad lovers!

  15. This is definitely my type of salad, it’s absolutely gorgeous too! I love that you present it in the trifle bowl, one can really see all of the delicious components.

    • I loved composed salads of all kinds, but when you have a layered salad, a trifle bowl is a must! I need to get one of a bigger size, come to think of it…

  16. I could eat salad everyday of my life and not get tired of it as there are so many different ones. I do have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever had barley in a salad and this sounds so very different. Add in all the other ingredients and it sounds like a real winner.

    • It adds bulk, but I love barley for the chewy factor – especially hulled barley. It’s definitely a winner.

    • Definitely! I had a few people wince at the salad upon first glance, but then they fall in love with it. It’s the barley part. Such a good grain for salads!

  17. This looks like spring! We eat salad all the time, but at this time of the year main course salads are something we have several times a week. So your timing is perfect for us. And the recipe? SImply perfect. :-) Thanks!

    • Thanks, John. I love salads as meals. Well, that’s what I have most every day for lunch. But I’ve also served a salad bar with various proteins for the top like grilled meats, avocado, shrimp, and so forth to company. It’s really fun to customize salads to your own liking. But otherwise it’s just me and my own salad. Hubby doesn’t like salad.

    • Everything in this salad is just perfect together. The feta and cherries are the icing on the cake, so to speak!

  18. I am totally intrigued by this salad, Mimi! I love a good layered salad. After all, we eat with our eyes before we actually eat, and this one looks impressive! The feta + dried cherries combo sounds like a really yummy addition to salad. Great for spring! And I also love how easy this salad is to make. Pass me a serving spoon, please!

    • It’s so easy, just takes a little prep work, but so worth it. I love all of the chewing necessary to make it through this salad!

  19. All the textures, layers and colors make for a deliciously fun salad. The longer you leave it sit the more delicious it is which makes it the perfect salad for entertaining so you can make in advance.

    • Probably not more than one day, but so far it’s never wilted like a lettuce salad would. It’s really fun!

  20. Mimi, I loved your choice of ingredients in salad and more than that I loved the way you have presented it..generally salads are in plates .. You gave us a unique idea.. Thank you

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