This heat grain salad of deeply toasted barley with savory kombu and crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds is a nod to my deep love for nurungji, a Korean rice porridge made by loosening burnt grains of rice caught to the underside of the pot with sizzling water. It is also influenced by my lifelong lengthy for boricha, Korean toasted barley tea, which is so flavorful that generally I believe I am sipping on a wealthy broth reasonably than a grain-based infusion.
For this dish, hulled barley is toasted in a dry saucepan till it calmly puffs and takes on a deep, nutty aroma. The barley is then merely simmered in water with a couple of items of kombu. The pure salinity and savoriness of the dried kelp is the one seasoning for this dish, together with salt from roasted pumpkin seeds, that are folded into the barley earlier than serving. The kombu itself is fished out of the pot as soon as the barley is simply cooked via, lower into small items, and stirred again in with the grains, pepitas, and a splash of olive oil.
This dish is an train in seasoning restraint. Cooks and residential cooks are sometimes taught to season the whole lot they contact with salt. Right here, I pull again on seasoning and rely simply on the oceanic savoriness of simmered kombu, the smokiness of slow-toasted grains, the nuttiness of pepitas, and the delicate pepperiness of olive oil.
The sunshine contact with seasoning is intentional, as this salad is supposed to be loved as a element of a bigger meal, alongside extra assertively flavored dishes. My chef mentor, Sohui Kim, taught me the significance of balancing the flavors of a big meal after I was studying easy methods to make the wide range of banchan served at her Brooklyn restaurant, Insa. If the desk was full of too many dishes that have been strongly seasoned with acid, warmth, salt, fats, and sweetness, she stated diners would rapidly succumb to palate fatigue earlier than ending their meal. Chef Kim impressed upon me that consuming a Korean meal ought to really feel like a dance, and every dish on the desk must be in concord with the opposite plates, complementing and balancing each other. So whether or not you make this barley salad as a part of a weeknight dinner or as a part of a vacation feast, consider it as a dish that brings stability to your desk.