1 cup pearled barley (can also use quinoa, farro, bulgar, rice, etc.)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. agave nectar
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2" slices
about 3 zucchini, 1/2" coins
olive oil & lemon pepper for cooking
2 cups baby tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
salt, as needed
Rinse the barley. Put it in a pot with about 3 cups of water. Bring it to a boil then down to a simmer, add a few pinches of salt and cook for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain any excess water and transfer the grains to a big mixing bowl. Add the minced garlic and a pinch of salt while the grains are still hot, and stir. Add the oil, vinegar, and agave and stir to coat. Set aside.
Heat a hearty drizzle of olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium heat (you can alternatively grill the eggplant and zucchini). Add the zucchini and a generous sprinkle of lemon pepper and saute until well charred and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the barley bowl. Rub lemon pepper or similar seasoning on all sides of the eggplant. Sear the eggplant in the pan; this will have to be done in two batches. Cook both sides with a bunch of seasonings until the eggplant starts to soften and then add a drizzle of oil. (Turns out a bit less greasy this way.) Let the eggplant cool slightly. Chop it into 2" chunks and add it to the barley bowl. Add the halved tomatoes, basil, parsley and toss everything to mix. Taste for salt and pepper and maybe a bit more vinegar, if you prefer. Serve at room temperature.
(I chopped the zucchini and eggplant into small, bite-size chunks, put on a baking sheet with drizzles of oil and sprinklings of lemon pepper and roasted them in the oven to cut down on frying in oil. This salad is delicious!)