My mom makes a very particular pasta salad which she calls Asian Chicken Pasta Salad. There is grilled teriyaki chicken, nuts, pasta, snow peas, and mandarin oranges, and altogether its a salty-sweet, chewy-crunchy flavor bonanza. All of those different elements and textures come together and make something that’s really delightful and I love it. I love it so much that I’ve tried making it over and over for the past 10+ years but I can never seem to get it quite right. After getting myself all amped up about the fact that “this time” it’s going to be perfect and then find my soul crushed because once again it is missing some mysterious element that I can’t identify I have just given up entirely. I am putting my hand over my heart and solemnly swearing to the entire cyber universe that I will never attempt to make it again for as long as I live. My ego is rather fragile and I just can’t deal with any more pasta salad-induced disappointment. My only consolation is that I’ve never attempted to make the pasta salad at a time when Mom was going to eat it so until now she was blissfully unaware of the degree to which I have failed at this particular endeavor.
Last spring my sister introduced me to this Mediterranean Barley Salad and I made it often throughout the spring and summer. Sadly, I always ate it alone because I am apparently the only one in my family that likes barley. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. Who doesn’t like barley? Well, maybe some people don’t. If you are one of them, don’t give up on barley entirely! In the meantime, maybe try this Lemon Chicken Pasta Salad instead. Among some other swaps and changes, whole wheat pasta takes the place of barley and grilled lemon chicken is added because my husband considers any meal without meat to just be an appetizer. Happily, it all worked and my new version is more family-friendly, at least for my family. I make no guarantees for yours. If there is one thing I know, it is that kids’ (and in my case, husband’s) tastes for things change by the hour and if you bet that they will like anything at any particular time, you will never ever win. The silver lining here is that I’ll keep making barley and maybe one day they’ll change their mind and eat it! I’m admittedly not holding my breath, so for the time being, I’ll just keep making this.
There are two things that I really love about this salad. First, you mix up one vinaigrette and use it to marinate the chicken, season the tomatoes, and dress the salad. Second, because arugula is a fairly firm green, the salad holds up well for a few days which is perfect for my Sunday meal prep day. I make up a batch on Sunday and then I have it around to eat in different portions for lunch, a side at dinner, even one of my mid-day snacks during the week.