Here’s what I love about summer salads: their freshness, color, and simplicity. The thing I don’t love about summer salads is that they’re often a little less substantial than wintery ones. No matter how wonderful it is to dive into a bowl of really fresh vegetables and fruit, it usually takes some grains and legumes for me to consider a salad meal-sized.
Greek salad is a good example. I’m crazy about the combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs, and the flavors speak to my heritage. But even if I find a way to replace the feta, Greek salad isn’t quite hefty enough to fill me up, unless I pile on the pita. This vegan barley Greek salad with herbed tofu is a slightly more filling and nutrient dense spin on a quintessential summer dish, and it was love at first bite when I tossed it together over the weekend.
The key to this salad is a variety of textures: juicy tomatoes, crispy romaine and cucumbers, chewy barley, and dense tofu. It’s a great mixture, and—thanks to the tofu brine, the sweetness of really fresh tomatoes, and a simple Greek vinaigrette—it’s also packed with flavor.
The herbed tofu feta here is a very straightforward variation of my regular tofu feta recipe—basically, I just added dried oregano. Fresh oregano is also fine, and you can get creative with your choice of herbs here: dill, thyme, and basil would all be lovely. You can make tofu feta with any salty marinade, but I really like using miso, because it adds some umami as well as salt. You drain the tofu of marinade before tossing it with all of the other ingredients, but a lot of the flavor remains, so the dressing for this salad can afford to be sparse.
If you make the salad, there’s plenty of opportunity to play. You can use cherry or grape tomatoes in place of beefsteak, add herbs other than the parsley and mint I used, load on the olives or capers, etc. I recommend tossing it and serving it right away, but if you need to store it in the fridge for an hour or two, that’s just fine.
And if the tomatoes release a lot of their juices, it’s just an opportunity to throw a big handful of torn pita bread into the salad, allowing it to soak up all of the goodness 🙂
I really love the tofu feta in this recipe, but if you’re allergic to soy, you can replace it with 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (a can, rinsed and drained before adding). For a gluten-free alternative to the barley, I’d recommend another toothsome and hefty grain, like rice or sorghum, but millet would also be good. I tend to use pearl barley for its quick cooking time, but you can definitely use hulled barley in its place.
I love increasing the texture and heft of salads with the additions of grains; in fact, these days I rarely prepare salads without some sort of whole grain or another. I’ll be enjoying this one many times over before the summer is over, and I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
I’ve got a busy week of new class and nutrition counseling ahead of me, but I’ll be checking in on Friday with a stellar, classic cookie recipe. Have a wonderful week!