This is the ideal cold-season salad for many reasons. It is hearty, it keeps excellently for a week refrigerated, and it gives good sustenance to energy. Moreover, it tastes great.Roasted vegetables are one of my vices, so it was very difficult to not eat the roasted butternut squash as is. I used pearled barley, but almost any grain would work (freekeh and wheatberry for example). Just make sure to adjust the cooking time for the grain type used accordingly.
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 kilo)
5 to 6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup pearled barley
1/3 cup toasted pepitas
3/4 cup feta cheese, cubed
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375F.
Peel squash, then halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut squash into approximately 3/4-inch chunks.
Coat one large or two small baking sheets with 2 tablespoons oil total.
Spread squash out in single layer on sheet. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Roast until pieces are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Set aside to cool slightly.
While squash is roasting, cook barley in a large pot of simmering salted water until the grains are tender but chewy, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
While squash is roasting and barley is simmering, in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and granulated sugar until sugar and salt dissolve.
Stir in onion; it will barely be covered by vinegar mixture but don’t worry. Cover and set in fridge until needed; 30 minutes is ideal but less time will still make a lovely, lightly pickled onion.
In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash, barley, red onion and its vinegar brine, the cubed cheese and pepitas.
Toss with 3 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, use the 4th one only if needed.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Eat now or later. Salad keeps in the fridge for up to a week.