Serves 4 to 6
If you are short on time, you can make this salad with quick-cooking barley, which takes only 10 to 15 minutes to cook, though I prefer the real thing (pearl barley), time permitting. Good quality prepared giardiniera is a wonderful pantry ingredient to have on hand as a briny, crunchy addition to salads and sandwiches. Of course, if you have leftover roast chicken, you can use that here instead of poaching your own.
- 1 cup pearl barley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each)
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 1 lemon, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler and juiced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup coarsely chopped drained prepared giardiniera
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cups loosely packed baby spinach
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the barley and cook until the barley is tender but still slightly chewy, about 40 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Spread on a baking sheet to cool.
Put the chicken in a medium pot with water to cover by about an inch. Add the garlic and lemon zest strips. Season the water with 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the water to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Combine the cooled chicken and barley in a large serving bowl with the cherry tomatoes and giardinera. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Add the spinach and parsley leaves. Toss just to combine and serve immediately.