Chewy, nutty barley combines with colorful vegetables and a sweet-tart vinaigrette in this hearty, nutrient-rich salad.  Blanching broccoli rabe subdues its natural bitterness,  while roasting brings out the sweetness of winter squash and cauliflower.  Festive and flavorful, this salad keeps and reheats well, making it a perfect make-ahead dish for a brown-bag lunch or holiday gathering.

Warm barley salad with roasted vegetables

Yield:  Makes about 14 cups, serving about 8

1 1/3 c. pearl barley

About 1/2 c. olive oil, divided

1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into bite-sized florets

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4″ pieces

1 large bunch broccoli rabe, stems cut into 2-inch lengths, tops roughly chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped

8 sun-dried tomatoes, plumped in boiling water, drained, then thinly sliced

1 handful fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bring one quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add barley and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until barley is tender but still chewy, about 25 minutes.  Drain well of any excess water.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Line two large baking sheets with foil.  Toss cauliflower florets with about 2 tbsp. olive oil and spread in a single layer on one baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss squash with 2 more tbsp. oil, arrange on other baking sheet, and season.  Bake until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes.  Add vegetables to barley in mixing bowl.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, season generously with salt, and add broccoli rabe stems.  Cook two minutes, then add tops and cook a minute or two longer, until tender.  Drain, then shock under cold running tap water to stop cooking and set color.   Squeeze broccoli rabe to remove excess moisture, then add to mixing bowl.

Whisk together remaining 1/4 c. olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt until emulsified.  Add red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, and vinaigrette to mixing bowl and toss to combine.  Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Serve warm.

Salad keeps well in the fridge for about four days.

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