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Springtime Barley Salad with Morels, Asparagus, and Fresh Mint
This salad really shows off the pleasing texture and subtle flavor of barley

Ingredients:
1 cup hulled barley
6 ounces (trimmed weight) pencil-thin asparagus, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 ounces fresh morel mushrooms, stems discarded and the morels sliced thin crosswise (about 1 cup), or 1 ounce dried morels soaked for 30 minutes in hot water and sliced
2 fresh lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

Directions:
1. Cook the barley in a large kettle of boiling salted water for 30 minutes, or until tender. Add the asparagus and cook for 4 minutes, or until bright green and crisp-tender. Drain the barley and asparagus completely in a colander and transfer to a bowl.
2. While the barley is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Cook the shallots, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sliced morels and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and it has evaporated, and the mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in a tablespoon of the lemon juice and the parsley. Remove the skillet from the heat, and season mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Let the barley and the mushroom mixture cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil with the remaining lemon juice (from about 1 1/2lemons). Stir the dressing into the barley with the morel mixture and mint. Season to taste and serve immediately.

This salad really shows off the pleasing texture and subtle flavor of barley. As currently constituted, it's a celebration of spring-but other green vegetables can be substituted for the asparagus and other wild mushrooms for the morels, in other seasons. Whenever you make it, you'll find it simultaneously hearty and fresh-tasting. It's also fresh and delicious the next day, right out of the refrigerator. Serves 6 as a side dish