I’m not gonna lie, I’m not the best at packing my lunch. It doesn’t help that I work in kitchens where food is so readily available to eat. You can’t blame me for not planning ahead! But between recipe developing menus for cooking classes, or whipping up a dessert buffet for 50, I often dream about what I would rather have for lunch that day.
I’m often snacking off of what is readily available and not keeping in mind what food is best to fuel my body. This means a lot of kitchen scraps, chips and salsa, and other snacks that don’t quantify as a balanced lunch.
This grain bowl was inspired by a recent trip to a local farm, that’s known for their farm-to-table dinners and u-pick blackberry brambles. In their outdoor café, I ordered a Farro and Olive Grain Bowl that really hit the spot. The grain salad was dressed with a lemon-shallot vinaigrette, adorned with arugula, tons of briny Casteltravano Olives, and salty feta to pack a punch! I was determined to recreate that magic in my own way.
I opted to add grilled salmon to give myself the complete protein that I would need to sustain myself through dinnertime. What’s incredible about this recipe is you can prep the grain and salmon ahead of the week and use this as a great meal-prep recipe.
Preheat your grill for medium-high heat, or 475°F if using a pellet smoker. Clean your side of salmon, ensuring it is free of pin bones and scales. Using a filet knife or chef’s knife, cut the salmon filet into 5 – 6 portions, depending on the size of the filet.
Generously season the flesh with Ranchero Seasoning. The skin will not need seasoning, but will add more flavor and maneuverability on the grill if left on.
Place the salmon filets skin-side down in an area of the grill that promotes indirect cooking. This means away from the heat source. So either on an upper secondary shelf or further away from hot coals. Cook the salmon skin side down for five minutes, then flip to finish cooking. Once the salmon has reached an internal temperature of 150°F, pull from the grill, and set aside on a plate to cool in the fridge.
Measure Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper into a large bowl and whisk together. Add olive oil in a slow, thin stream while whisking constantly to emulsify. Conversely, it is possible to combine all the ingredients together with a blender to create an emulsion.
Cooked Pot Barley:
In a larger pot, bring a pinch of salt and water to a boil. Once boiling, add the rinsed pot barley. Once the water comes back to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover. Allow barley to cook 45 minutes to an hour until fully cooked. Once grain has finished cooking, spread on a sheet pan and let cool. Once cooled, coat the cooked grain with a little lemon vinaigrette (about 2-4 Tablespoons) to dress the barley.
For one portion, place one cup of mixed greens in a bowl. Add one cup cooked and dressed barley. Add sliced cucumber, olives, feta cheese, and boiled egg. Serve with flaked grilled salmon and more lemon vinaigrette.
The inspiration for this dish used farro as the main grain, however it is not always easy to find. I went to my local grocer’s bulk section and found pot barley, a common substitution for farro. Pot barley is a little less toothy than farro, but just as much as yummy mild flavor. You can use quinoa, brown rice, or any of your favorite grains in place of the pot barley, feel free to experiment!
To cook the barley, rinse 2 cups of the grain under lukewarm water. In a large pot, put 6 cups of lukewarm water, a pinch of salt, and the rinsed grain together. Pick out any debris that may be floating to the top of the water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot, and allow the grain to cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Once all the water is fully-absorbed and the barley cooked through, let it cool on a large surface or baking tray while you prep the salmon and the lemon dressing.
The dressing is so simple! Place fresh-squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. I think the secret to fantastic dressings are just having really good ingredients on hand, such as this Saica Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Reida Farm Honey. This lemon vinaigrette is so easy, yet also versatile! I use this same recipe to go with a Grilled Salmon Niçoise Salad.
Once the dressing is properly emulsified, pour just a little over the cooked grain and stir to dress the grain. This helps keep the grain fresh and not gummy throughout the week.
While I cooked the grain and then made the dressing, I also boiled eggs. My technique for this is to place the eggs in a medium pot and submerge them in lukewarm water. (No salt or baking soda in the water!) Then I’ll bring the eggs to a boil over medium high heat. Once the water is boiling, I reduce the heat and let them cook for just 5 minutes more. Once that time is up, I place them into ice water to cool immediately. Once they are absolutely and completely cooled, then I will peel them underwater.
Next, to prep the salmon, the first thing you’ll want to do is ensure you have a sharp knife. I prefer a Shun 6″ boning or filet knife when working with certain cuts of meat, but a chef’s knife such as a Wusthof 8″ Classic IKON chef’s knife would also work. I use one whole side of skin-on salmon for this recipe, although it works well without skin, if you prefer. The skin will add a depth of flavor and make it easier to flip on a grill (in case you’re worried about that).
Make sure to look over your filet to ensure it is free of pin bones or scales. Remove any bones with tweezers, and missed scales with the back of a knife.
Cut your side of salmon into five clean portions, appropriately sized for lunch. The tail-end tends to be much thinner than the rest of the filet, so make sure to give yourself a larger cut on that side.
Here I got five clean filets, plus a little end piece that I like to call a “chef snack.” A “chef snack” is the reward you give yourself for all the hard work that goes into prepping meals. I seasoned them liberally with Cattleman’s Grill Ranchero Seasoning, a versatile rub with bold garlic, herb, and lemon flavor.
Place the salmon on the upper shelf, skin-side down. Close the grill lid and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes, or until you begin to get those characteristic grill marks.
Flip the salmon once and continue cooking with the lid closed, another 5-8 minutes. To ensure it is properly cooked, I like to use an instant read thermometer, like the Yoder Smokers Maverick PT-75. Fully-cooked fish should have an internal temperature of at least 145°F. If you get much past 160°F, you risk drying out your fish.
Place the cooked salmon on the grill, and you can either serve it hot, or if you prefer to eat later for lunch, cool it in the fridge.
Once you’ve boiled and peeled the eggs, cooked the grain, made the dressing, and grilled the salmon, the rest is very simple. I decided to add some sliced cucumber and mixed greens for some added veggie power.
On top of my bed of greens, I placed one cup of dressed barley, as many Casteltravano olives as I felt like (a lot), about a 2 or 3 Tablespoons of Feta, sliced cucumbers, and one quartered boiled egg. I kept the salmon and the dressing on the side to keep my salad fresh in my Yeti Daytrip Lunch Bag before devouring it the next day!