Greek Tomato and Bread Salad with Feta, Basil, and Capers

Time

Yield

Ingredients

Ingredients

4 cups barley ring chunks , about 4 whole barley rings, or
very stale country bread or
2 inch chunks
6 ripe tomatoes (about 2 lb. total), cut into lg. chunks
18 olives, preferably Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tbsp. capers, drained
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. fruity olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves, shredded

Instructions

Place the bread on a platter or in a large bowl. Sprinkle with water and set aside until partially softened, 3 to 5 minutes.


Arrange the tomatoes, olives, and capers over the bread and sprinkle with the salt and vinegar. Add the cheese and pepper to taste, and drizzle with the oil. Top with the basil and set aside to marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Toss, and serve right away. Serves 6.
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Greek Black Barley Rings (Mavrokoulouria)

2 tbsp. active dry yeast (2 pkg.)
2 tsp. sugar
3-1/2 cups stone ground barley flour
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for coating the dough
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
Unbleached all purpose flour, for the work surface

Mix together the yeast, sugar, 1/2 cup of the barley flour, and the warm water in a large bowl. Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place until bubbly, 30 minutes.

Add the 1/4 cup oil, remaining 3 cups barley flour, the salt, and the 1/2 cup water. Stir until you can gather the mixture into a sticky ball.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Coat the dough with oil, transfer to a bowl, cover with a cloth, and set it aside in a warm place until a bit spongy but not nearly doubled, 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces. With your hands, press each piece out to form a flat oval about 12 inches long, 6 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick. Fold in the long sides of each oval so that they overlap, forming a roll. Then pull the roll around, with the side seam on the inside, to form a ring. Squeeze the ends together and press any cracks closed.

Place the rings on an ungreased baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rest until a little spongy again, 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush the rings with water and bake until beginning to brown, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet.

When the rings have cooled, preheat the oven to 200 F.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the rings until dry all the way through, 7 hours (overnight is fine). Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year. To use, soak the rings briefly in water, coffee, tea, or other liquid until just soft, about 5 minutes. Makes 12 rings.

NOTE: If stone ground barley flour is hard to find or time is short, commercially made barley rings can be purchased at any Greek specialty grocery store.

In Greece, barley rings are made of just plain barley flour. Their height may be helped by the fact that the rings are folded over, but also the barley flour in Greece is different from that found in the United States; it is quite fibrous. Because of the flour differences, the barley rings in this recipe, though delicious, are lighter in color and shorter in stature than the native ones.

Adventures In Greek Cooking

Author's Comments

Since much of Greece’s dense, crusty, grainy, wonderful bread has always been dried toast like for keeping, it stands to reason that the Greeks would also have a number of ways of soaking the bread to restore its moist chewy softness. Bread salads are proof of how the plainest, simplest of foods can be utterly matchless.

I have included the recipe for Barley rings if you can’t find them in a Greek specialty store. You can use other crusty country breads also.

Barley Rings remain one of the most unusual and renowned Greek breads. Traditional in Crete and the Southern Cyclades, they are the epitome of rural breads, they nourish, last, and feed through winter, keeping hearts strong.

Barley rings are nutty, honest, truly down to earth. They stay crunchy even when soaked in liquid. They are the bread of choice for bread salad. They are marvelous crumbled in soup, and dunking in morning brew. Traditionally the rings are made with sourdough starter but this recipe uses yeast.

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